Cases of Polio-Like Illness May Have Peaked — CDC

Map graphic showing 2018 confirmed cases of Acute Flaccid Myelitis in the United States by state

The map above shows the state-by-state incidence in 2018 of AFM. Courtesy of Centers for Disease Control

According to CDC, 134 cases of AFM have been confirmed in 33 states out of 299 reported cases this year.

"It appears that the number of persons under investigation for AFM has peaked and will continue to decline for the remainder of 2018", the CDC said in a statement. Mostly young children have been affected. This is an increase of 18 confirmed cases from the previous week, but most of the latest confirmed AFM cases occurred in September and October. At that point, the CDC announced plans to track the number of AFM cases for the first time.

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AFM - also known as Acute Flaccid Myelitis - has been found in a child here, in North Dakota. Polio has been almost eradicated from the world by vaccination, and its occurrence is very low.

But viruses can attack the nerves directly as polio virus does. Or they can cause an auto-immune reaction that damage nerves, similar to what happens in Guillain-Barre syndrome. A total of 299 possible cases had been referred to the CDC this year, as of November 30. More than 400 confirmed cases, a lot of them in children, have been reported in the past four years, and one child with AFM died last year.

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The CDC began monitoring AFM in 2014, and though the agency is still unsure what causes the disease to spread so rapidly, a pattern has developed in which more cases of AFM are confirmed every two years.

"Although fewer cases are expected in coming months, CDC and partners continue to carefully study AFM to gain new understanding of the condition so that we can better diagnose, treat, and prevent it in the future", the CDC wrote. It primarily impacts the central nervous system, "specifically the area of the spinal cord called gray matter, which causes the muscles and reflexes in the body to become weak", the health agency says online.

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Maggie Fox is a senior writer for NBC News and TODAY, covering health policy, science, medical treatments and disease.

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