Department of Public Health confirms case of polio-like disease in MA

Maryland health officials said their first case was reported to them September 21.

The CDC referred calls to individual state health departments.

Health officials said five kids in Maryland are believed to have contracted a virus this fall that has symptoms similar to polio.

Additional symptoms can include facial drooping or weakness, difficulty swallowing and slurred speech. Some who contract AFM will feel weakness in their arms or legs, a loss of muscle tone or slower reflexes.

Health experts say the disease can lead to paralysis and even death, but no deaths have been reported so far this year. Symptom onset is generally quite sudden, and Messonnier urged parents to seek medical care quickly for children displaying these symptoms.

In 2014 the CDC said there was a spike in the AFM virus, with 120 people afflicted with it from August to December of that year in 34 states. There have been cases each year since, but the numbers have been higher on alternate years. Testing of affected children has turned up a smattering of infections - some by enteroviruses, which is the broad family to which polioviruses belong, but also rhinoviruses, which cause head colds.

"This is truly a mystery disease", Messionier told CBS News.

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That's when we spoke with the families of 4-year-old Camdyn Carr, who's now fighting the disease, and 7-year-old Sebastian Bottomley, who previously fought AFM. "For some of the previous cases we've identified one pathogen or another, but we have no unifying diagnosis".

The mysterious increase in cases of AFM, as it's called, was first spotted in the late summer and autumn of 2014.

Messonnier said that of the cases confirmed this year, none have been related to the polio virus or West Nile virus.

"We have not been able to find a cause for the majority of these AFM cases", Messonnier admitted.

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

In some cases children have recovered, but in others the paralysis has lingered.

There is no specific treatment for AFM, but doctors may recommend physical or occupational therapy to help with arm or leg weakness.

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