The state's health department said the five reported cases of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) also are being investigated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and are among dozens of cases the federal health agency is looking into across the country. For reasons not fully understood, AFM affects mainly children.
It shows distinct abnormalities of the spinal cord gray matter on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Although it is too early to understand how the current season compares to previous ones, she noted, the nation is "on track with what was seen in 2014 and 2016" and will probably have the same number of cases.
Standardized surveillance was established in 2015 to monitor this illness and attempt to estimate the baseline incidence. So far, the number of cases in 2018 is similar to the number reported in 2014 and 2016, Messonnier said.
About 90 percent of the cases are children who have suffered muscle weakness or paralysis.
In 2014, a large AFM epidemic coincided with a national outbreak of severe respiratory illness caused by enterovirus D68 (EV-D68), but in-depth testing of patient samples hasn't consistently found a common cause. "Right now, we know that poliovirus is not the cause of these AFM cases". Another kind of virus was found in only some of the cases. "These kids have a sudden onset of weakness and they are generally seeking medical care and being evaluated by neurologists, infectious disease doctors and their pediatricians and coming to public health awareness".
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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".
Some patients diagnosed with this condition have recovered quickly, but some continue to have paralysis and require ongoing care, she said. Officials will be conducting additional analysis on this year's cases.
The CDC has not traced the virus to a specific germ, but the agency said it has a variety of causes including viruses, environmental toxins and genetic disorders.
For example, the CDC doesn't know who may be at higher risk for developing AFM or why some are at higher risk, she said.
CDC is not releasing a list of the 22 states with confirmed and suspected cases because of privacy issues.
The CDC says disease prevention steps should be followed, including staying up to date on vaccines, washing hands and using mosquito repellant.
So far, the CDC hasn't seen any geographic patterns based on reporting from states.