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Rare illness with paralysis-causing symptoms making its way to Arizona

Posted at 8:20 PM, Jul 28, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-30 17:59:04-04

It’s a new, mysterious illness blamed for paralyzing people across the country. A new report out from the Center for Disease and Control highlights cases now reported in Arizona.

Acute Flaccid Myelitis, or AFM, was first discovered in 2014. It is considered extremely rare, affecting about one in one million people. However, since the virus was discovered, the number of cases has been on the rise.

Across the United States, 295 cases have now been confirmed.

The Arizona Department of Health Services says six cases have been confirmed through extensive testing in Arizona in 2016. Initially, 11 cases had been suspected.

So far this year, no cases have been identified.

"AFM or Acute Flaccid Myelitis can look a little bit like Polio,” said Jessica Rigler, the Epidemiology Bureau Chief for the Arizona Department of Health Services. “It can cause some paralysis, but it's not the same disease here. We're talking about a totally different animal."

AFM is targeting children especially hard — even though anyone can develop it.

The disease usually starts with a common cold, and It affects a person’s nervous system, specifically the spinal cord.

AFM can paralyze the arms, legs, face and has been linked to other serious complications, health officials said.

"For families that are impacted by this unfortunate syndrome, it really is a terrible and scary thing for them because they're watching their children experiencing some pretty severe symptoms,” said Rigler.

Health officials admit they don’t know much about AFM. There is no known cause or cure.

People who develop AFM usually make a partial or full recovery, according to health officials.

The Arizona Department of Health Services has instructed hospitals and health care providers to alert them to patients who may be experiencing AFM symptoms.

In the meantime, the focus is on preventing common viruses from spreading.

Good hygiene (like hand washing), covering coughs and sneezes as well as keeping up-to-date with vaccinations are urged.

You can read more about AFM here.