CDC confirms 90 cases of rare polio-like illness affecting children in 27 states

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Tuesday confirmed 90 cases of a polio-like illness in 27 states.

The CDC is still trying to determine what triggers Acute Flaccid Myelitis (AFM), which causes limb weakness and primarily affects young children.

“As a mom, I know what it’s like to be scared for our children and I understand parents want answers,” Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said in a press call with reporters Tuesday.

“Right now science doesn’t give us an answer. That’s why we at the CDC and all our partners will keep looking for answers.”

The CDC is investigating 252 cases, an increase of 33 patients since last week. The investigation includes the 90 confirmed cases.

Messonnier said no deaths related to AFM have been reported to the CDC this year.

Of the confirmed cases, Messonnier said, most patients are between the ages of two and eight.

“Many children have fevers and respiratory system infections. Most don’t go on to develop AFM,” Messonnier said, noting that such symptoms arise three to 10 days before patients with AFM experience limb weakness.

“We’re trying to figure out what the triggers are that would cause someone to develop AFM.”

The CDC has had two cases where spinal cord fluid tests positive for viruses: one with EV-D68 and one with EV-A71.

"No pathogen has been consistently found in all of the AFM patients. That's why we're looking not just at EV-D68 and A71 but other things that might be triggering AFM.”

There were also reported spikes of AFM cases in young children in 2014 and 2016.

The CDC doesn’t yet know the long-term effects of AFM, but is working with state health departments to cross-reference AFM cases with death registries in previous years.

It’s also establishing a task force of national experts to investigate AFM.

“We’ve learned a lot about AFM since 2014, but there are still things we don’t understand,” Messonnier said.