This year, five children in Maryland have come down with AFM symptoms, according to the Maryland Department of Health. Neurological conditions like it have a variety of causes, such as viruses, environmental toxins and genetic disorders.
Asked about the discrepancy between the CDC's report of 22 states versus CNN's report of 30 states with cases, Messonnier said, "the 22 states that we're reporting are the states that have confirmed cases".
The disease affects the spinal cord and can cause weakness and pain in the arms and legs.
Media reports in recent weeks have suggested that a "polio-like virus" might be triggering the condition, elevating fears that it might be polio itself. The most severe symptom of AFM is respiratory failure, which can happen when the muscles needed to breathe become weak from the disease.
The CDC says there are preventive measures people can take to reduce the risk of infections that could lead to AFM. Most of the cases have occurred in children.
"CDC has been actively investigating AFM, testing specimens and monitoring disease since 2014, when we first saw an increase in cases", Messonnier said.
The long-term effects are not known, and outcomes have been different for patients, with some recovering quickly and others having lasting paralysis and requiring ongoing care.
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"As a parent myself, I understand what it is like to be scared for your child".
The CDC began tracking the condition in 2014, when there were 120 confirmed cases. Only one death has been reported, which involved an AFM illness reported in 2017. Parents should seek medical care immediately if their child develops sudden weakness or loss of muscle tone in the arms and legs. In 2016, there were 149 cases.
She said it was important for parents and clinicians to remember that this is a rare condition, affecting less than 1 in 1 million people under 18. With the sudden onset of weakness, patients are "generally seeking medical care" and being evaluated by neurologists, infectious disease doctors and pediatricians. Doctors at Children's have not seen an AFM patient needing a ventilator this year, but have treated such cases in the past, Benson said. It affects the nervous system and can cause paralysis.
The agency knows that poliovirus is not the cause of these cases, because CDC has tested every single stool specimen from patients, and none have tested positive for poliovirus.
The CDC says disease prevention steps should be followed, including staying up to date on vaccines, washing hands and using mosquito repellant.
On Monday, CNN reached out to health departments in every state and received responses from 48 states plus the District of Columbia.
In research developments, a team based at the J. Craig Venter Institute conducted experiments to see if a specific EV-D68 genotype is linked to neurologic symptoms and found that some viruses from the 2014 outbreak can infect neuronal cells.
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AFM in 22 states: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
From August 2014 through September 2018, the CDC received information on a total of 386 confirmed cases of AFM across the country. Parents should seek medical care right away if their child develops sudden weakness or loss of muscle tone in the arms and legs.
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