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Health officials are trying to figure out why a growing number of children are developing a rare, paralyzing condition. NPR health correspondent Rob Stein has an update on the investigation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
ROB STEIN, BYLINE: The condition is known as acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM, and Nancy Messonnier at the CDC says it usually starts with the kind of thing lots of kids get this time of year.
NANCY MESSONNIER: Most patients with AFM have fever and/or respiratory symptoms before developing AFM. However, at this time of year, many children have fever and respiratory symptoms.
STEIN: And most end up just fine. But something scary suddenly happens to some children. Otherwise healthy, active kids suddenly start to go limp. Their arms and legs get paralyzed three to 10 days later. That's AFM.
MESSONNIER: In almost all patients, an upper limb was involved. About half had only upper limb involvement.
STEIN: The CDC says the number of reports of these cases has now climbed to 252 so far this year, including 90 that have been officially confirmed as AFM. Most of the cases are kids between the ages of 2 and 8. About half the kids eventually fully recover, but the other half are left with some kind of long-term, sometimes serious disability.
MESSONNIER: As a mom, I know what it's like to be scared for your child. And I understand parents want answers.
STEIN: So scientists are racing to try to figure out what's causing this. Tests have found some common viruses in some of the patients, but it's too soon to know if any of them are causing AFM or it's something else.
MESSONNIER: It may be one of the viruses that we've already tested. It may be a virus that we haven't yet detected. Or it could be that the virus is kicking off another process. Those are all hypotheses that we're looking closely at. Right now, the science doesn't give us an answer.
STEIN: In the meantime, Messonier urges parents not to panic. AFM is very rare. It doesn't appear to be related to any kind of toxin in the environment or vaccines. So it's important that parents get kids flu shots and other vaccines that will protect them from much more common, serious health problems. Rob Stein, NPR News.
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