(RNN) – The paralyzing, polio-like disease acute flaccid myelitis or AFM, is now reported in 22 states across the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Nancy Messonnier, Director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said the CDC is investigating 127 case with 62 confirmed, and it seems to be hitting children more than other age groups.
The average patient is 4 years old and 90 percent of confirmed cases are below the age of 18, she said.
Messonnier said the rare disease affects the spinal cord.
Symptoms of the disease include weakness to limbs and loss of muscle tone.
“There is a lot we don’t know about AFM,” she said.
Doctors cannot find a unifying diagnosis and there are no geographical patterns of the disease.
Messonnier said one child with the disease died in 2017.
She stressed that the disease is extremely rare - with fewer than 1 in a million people affected, she said.
“As a parent myself, I understand what it’s like to be scared for your child,” she said. “Parents need to know that AFM is rare even with the increase in cases we are seeing now.”
She said diagnoses are on a similar track to 2014 and 2016 but that it would be too early to predict if 2018 would be a record year.
“This is a pretty dramatic disease,” she said.
She encouraged parents to wash their children’s hands, use insect repellents and to update vaccinations.
The CDC said it will not be releasing a list of states with AFM cases at this time due to privacy issues, but states are volunteering information to the agency about those diagnosed.