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Polio-like illness affecting children continues to surpass record totals into 2019

Confirmed cases of AFM as of Jan. 4, 2019-Graphic provided by CDC

The number of confirmed cases of a polio-like illness affecting mostly children has now reached 193 confirmed cases in 39 states. The confirmed cases are among a total of 349 cases reported and being investigated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The latest totals were reported by the CDC as of January 4 and reflect an increase of seven cases since the previous December 28 reporting period. The 193 confirmed cases now adds to record-breaking totals, marking the largest outbreak of Acute flaccid myelitis.

The state of Tennessee, which previously did not have a confirmed case reported, now has one confirmed case according to the CDC.

Shelly Walker, Communications Director with the Tennessee Department of Health said the department is aware of the confirmed case and could not provide additional details other than the case was confirmed in West Tennessee.

Among unconfirmed cases, there are now 349 under investigation, an increase of 8 since the last reporting period. West Virginia, Idaho, Utah, Oregon, Connecticut, Delaware, Vermont, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Alaska, Hawaii, and Washington, D.C. are the only states/districts which have not reported confirmed cases. Texas continues to lead all states with 25 confirmed cases.

Acute flaccid myelitis first starts as a fever and/or respiratory illness three to ten days before the patient's limbs get weak. Something in the body -which researchers are still trying to figure out- then triggers AFM to affect the nervous system, leading to weak limbs and possible paralysis.

Since 2014, over 90% of patients reported a mild respiratory illness or fever consistent with a viral infection before developing AFM. Over 90% of the cases have been children.

Researchers say the outbreak appears to be an every-other-year occurrence. Since 2014, even years have seen no less than 120 confirmed cases, with 2015 and 2017 seeing no more than 35 cases.

Previously, the CDC stated they believe there are positive signs the outbreak has hit it's peak given in previous years the number of reports drop in December. Since reporting from states is delayed, this latest increase could be slightly dated.

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