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This year, more than half of all U.S. states have had confirmed or possible cases of acute flaccid myelitis, the polio-like illness that can cause paralysis and mostly affects children, according to an exclusive CNN analysis.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said today that officials are investigating a spike in acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) cases, mostly in children, that looks similar to increases they saw in the late summer and fall of 2014 and 2016, with 127 cases under investigation in 22 states.

Officials at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City said two cases of AFM have been confirmed at the hospital.

Since the condition was first recognized by CDC in 2014, the agency has confirmed 362 cases.

More than 90 percent of the cases are in children 18 years and younger.

So far 62 of the cases-marked by sudden onset of limb weakness and decreased muscle tone-have been confirmed, Nancy Messonnier, MD, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said today at a media briefing. And though enteroviruses have been detected in some paralysis cases, it hasn't been found in others, CDC officials say. Another spike came in 2016.

Acute flaccid myelitis can be caused by viruses, such as polio or West Nile.

Some victims have been infected with viruses, but researchers have been unable to identify a single virus responsible for all cases.

AFM is a rare condition that affects the nervous system, causing muscle weakness. Symptoms can also include facial droop and weakness, difficulty moving the eyes, drooping eyelids or difficulty swallowing and slurred speech.

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The other case of acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM, occurred in August, and four others are under investigation in MA.

"We know this can be frightening for parents, and I know many parents want to know what signs and symptoms they should be looking out for in their children", Messonnier said. One child with the disorder died in 2017.

Besides viruses, officials are also considering environmental toxins as a possible cause, but so far, they have no evidence that a particular toxin is behind the cases. What happens to patients down the line is unclear; some recover quickly, while others may need long-term care. "As a parent myself, I understand what it's like to be scared for your child", she said. Most of the cases involve children, officials said.

The CDC began tracking the condition in 2014, when there were 120 confirmed cases.

That's up from 22 people who were said to have it in 2015.

In some individuals, health officials have determined that the condition was from infection with a type of virus that causes severe respiratory illness.

The CDC is actively investigating and monitoring disease activity and recommends taking standard prevention measures such as hand-washing, protecting oneself from mosquito bites and staying up-to-date on vaccinations.

States are not required to provide this information to the CDC but have been voluntarily reporting their data.

Other countries have reported AFM cases, but not the same seasonal pattern the United States has experienced.


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