Polio-like disease is on the rise with 85 possible cases

Break news e-mails

Receive news reports and special reports. The news and the stories that matter are delivered on weekday mornings.

Cases of a crippling disorder that mainly affects children seem to be rising across the country, has established an unofficial investigation of NBC News.

The condition, called acute weak myelitis or AFM, appears to have been caused by a viral infection, but health officials have not been able to link cases to a specific virus. It causes symptoms ranging from muscle weakness to complete paralysis.

Health officials in 26 states tell NBC News that they have investigated or reported 85 cases of AFM.

It suddenly occurs and can cause various symptoms, including dizziness, inability to walk, problems with swallowing or problems with moving an arm. There is no specific treatment, but if children show symptoms, they need quick care, especially if there are problems with breathing, because they may need a ventilator.

From the end of September, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had confirmed 38 cases in 16 states. CDC did not name the states, but health officials in Colorado said they had 14 cases in 2018 and officials in Minnesota confirmed six.

Health officials from the state in 24 other states have since told NBC News that they have both suspected and confirmed cases, some of which reported after the end of September. An unofficial count based on interviews with these officers shows 33 suspected and 52 confirmed cases of acute weak myelitis, for a total of 85 probable and confirmed cases.

"There are currently two possible cases reported in 2018 that are being investigated," said Brittany Fowler, a Maryland Health Department spokesperson, to NBC News.

"We had just reported an alleged case to a grown man," said Lynn Sutfin of the Michigan Department of Public Health.

A spokesman for the CDC said the agency was not planning to release updated figures this week.