Multiple cases of rare polio-like illness under investigation in North Carolina

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A mysterious illness that's sickening and even paralyzing children is prompting warnings this week from federal health officials to seek medical care immediately should anyone develop its symptoms.

A rare condition causing weakness in the arms or legs - and sometimes paralysis - has been confirmed in 62 children so far this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday.

Health officials urge parents to be vigilant, as there's a lot unknown about the syndrome and what causes it.

"While we know that these can cause AFM, we have not been able to find a cause for the majority of these AFM cases", Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said during the media teleconference.

Fall 2018 represents the third surge of AFM cases, which seem to spike in late summer and early fall, as Buzzfeed notes. Another spike came in 2016. No one knows what causes AFM, although a virus or viruses are suspected.

Messonnier also said none of this year's cases have been linked to West Nile virus.

"Any weakness, including trouble swallowing, weakness of an extremity, especially in a child who has recently gone through signs of an infection, those would be the main red flags", said Sarah Hopkins. CDC has tested many different specimens from patients with this condition for a wide range of pathogens, or germs, that can cause AFM.

James Hill of Lakeville, Minn., said his son, Quinton, suffered typical cold symptoms at the start of one school week in September.

It is "a pretty dramatic disease", but fortunately most kids recover, Messonnier said. There are a variety of possible causes of AFM, such as viruses, environmental toxins, and genetic disorders.

They also know that all six children developed the disease around the same time.

Officials with Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite Hospital told WVLT News that Hill was receiving treatment in an area of the hospital where patients diagnosed with AFM would be cared for.

Health experts are working to gather information on the North Dakota case, but confirmation could take weeks.

"If you see that in your child, it's important to get them to a health provider right away", she said.

Dr. Mobeen Rathore, chief of infectious disease and immunology at Wolfson, said in a statement that the child, who was not identified, was admitted to the hospital with acute flaccid myelitis (AFM).

CDC officials say they haven't found the cause.

But, if their child is diagnosed, parents should prepare for extensive physical therapy - therapy that isn't always covered by insurance, he said.

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