CDC investigating mysterious polio-like illness in New Hampshire


The CDC is actively investigating the cases and working with healthcare providers as well as state and local health departments to spread the word about AFM.

States reporting suspected cases or cases under investigation are Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Washington. Another 149 were reported in 2016. That pattern appears to be repeating this year. Two of those cases are here in Wisconsin.

Danielle Finkle, a mother from IL who was interviewed, said about her son: "He came to me and he's supporting his left arm with his right arm, and he says, 'Mommy my arm's broke'".

When AFM strikes, patients experience sudden weakness, as well as loss of muscle tone and reflexes in the arms and legs. Symptoms include neck weakness or stiffness, drooping eyelids or a facial droop and difficulty swallowing or slurred speech.

The disease primarily affects children.

Although it's rare, the CDC recommends seeking medical care right away if you or your child develop sudden weakness of the arms or legs.

That's up from 22 people who were said to have it in 2015. "Parents need to know that AFM is very rare, even with the increase in cases that we are seeing now". It's also unclear why the illness seems to peak in the late summer and fall.

Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. "And certainly after three cycles of this, when we've looked through all the normal agents, we're looking beyond that to see if there are things beyond normal infectious diseases that could cause this", said Messonnier. "We have detected enterovirus in several of these individual cases".

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Minnesota's state epidemiologist, Jayne Griffith, said parents should watch their children for signs of the illness. Polio was eradicated in the vaccination.

These symptoms are similar to the poliovirus (which was eliminated in the USA in 1979 after a successful national vaccination program) as well as non-polio enteroviruses, adenoviruses, and the West Nile virus.

Although some AFM patients tested positive for an enterovirus, indicating a possible link, not all had the virus.

The first cases of AFM coincided with an unusually severe outbreak of a common virus that affects the lungs or gut. Doctors are also urging that vaccines be kept up to date. But, if their child is diagnosed, parents should prepare for extensive physical therapy - therapy that isn't always covered by insurance, he said.

"Treatment options are quite limited", he said. He suffered paralysis and had to be put on a ventilator.

"We don't fully understand the long-term consequences of AFM", Ms Messonnier said.

Robin Roberts of Richmond, Virginia, spoke with NBC News about the death of her 5-year-old son, Carter, last month after he became paralyzed from his nose down because of the illness in 2016.