A mysterious polio-like illness that sickens and in some cases paralyzes children is increasing with at least 116 confirmed cases of acute flaccid myelitis so far this year, federal health officials said.
The last number of confirmed cases of AFM, distributed in 31 states, is a little more than twice the number reported in October by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which published its latest findings on Monday.
Another 170 possible cases remain unconfirmed and under investigation, the CDC said.
AFM is an extremely rare but serious neurological condition that causes the muscles and reflexes of the body to weaken. Its cause remains unknown, and generally affects children, the average age of 4 years, more than adults. There is no vaccine or treatment, although health officials urge people to seek medical attention immediately in case they develop their symptoms, which usually start with a mild respiratory illness or fever compatible with a viral infection.
Last week, the CDC set up an AFM working group to help determine the cause and treatment of the condition, which is usually more prominent in the fall during the respiratory season and the flu.
"I want to reaffirm the parents, patients and commitment of the Nation CDC to this serious medical condition," CDC Director Robert R. Redfield said in a press release. "This Task Force will ensure that the scientific community's capacity is engaged and working together to provide answers and important solutions to actively detect, treat more effectively and, ultimately, prevent AFM and its consequences."
The majority of cases this year in the United States have been in Colorado, where there were 15 confirmed cases. Texas has the second highest number with 14.
The number of cases reported this year is not the highest ever seen.
In 2016 there were 149 confirmed cases in 39 states and DC, while in the last five months of 2014 there were 120 confirmed cases in 34 states.
The number of AFM cases seems to increase every two years. Last year there were only 33 confirmed cases in 16 states, while in 2015 only 22 cases were confirmed in 17 states.