ATLANTA (CNN/WNCN) – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 155 cases of a polio-like illness mostly affecting kids are now under investigation nationwide.
The agency announced Monday that 28 new cases of AFM emerged last week.
AFM, which is officially called ‘Acute Flaccid Myelitis,’ is a rare but serious condition.
The illness affects the area of the spinal cord called gray matter and can cause paralysis.
It’s unknown why some patients fully recover while others are paralyzed.
The average age of patients with the condition is just 4-years-old.
Almost all cases occur in children under 18.
The CDC documented 120 cases in 2014. The number of confirmed diagnoses increased to 149 in 2016. Nine out of 10 victims are children, with an average age of 4 years.
There is no known official cause of AFM. Researchers from the CDC said neurologic conditions like AFM have a variety of causes such as viruses, environmental toxins, and genetic disorders.
There are precautions parents and children can take to protect themselves.
“Handwashing is always an important tool, and then vaccines of course for the infections that we have vaccines for, especially influenza at this time of year is an important way to keep your child safe and out of the hospital,” said Dr. Sallie Permar, a professor pediatrics and immunology at the Duke School of Medicine.
There are three reported cases of AFM this year in North Carolina.