Cases of polio-like illness appear to be on the rise across the US


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Cases of a paralyzing condition that affects mostly children appear to be on the rise across the country, an unofficial survey by NBC News has found.

The condition, called acute flaccid myelitis or AFM, appears to be caused by a viral infection, but health officials have been unable to link cases with any single specific virus. It causes symptoms ranging from muscle weakness to complete paralysis.

It comes on suddenly and can cause a variety of symptoms, including dizziness, inability to walk, trouble swallowing or trouble moving an arm. There is no specific treatment but if children show symptoms, they need quick care — especially if there is trouble breathing, as they may need a ventilator.

As of the end of September, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had confirmed 38 cases in 16 states. CDC did not name the states, but health officials in Colorado said they had 14 cases in 2018 and officials in Minnesota confirmed six.


State health officials in 23 other states have since told NBC News they have both suspected and confirmed cases as well, some of them reported after the end of September. An unofficial tally based on interviews with these officials shows 32 suspected and 51 confirmed cases of acute flaccid myelitis, for a total of 83 suspected and confirmed cases.

“There are currently two possible cases reported in 2018 that are under investigation,” Brittany Fowler, a spokesperson for the Maryland health department, told NBC News.

“We just had a suspected case reported in an adult male,” said Lynn Sutfin of the Michigan Department of Public Health.

A spokeperson for the CDC said the agency did not plan to release updated numbers this week.