BOSTON (CBS) – Massachusetts has a confirmed two cases of a polio-like illness that is being reported across the country. The Department of Public Health told WBZ-TV Tuesday there are two cases of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) in the state and four more suspected cases are being investigated.
Acute flaccid myelitis is a rare but serious condition that affects the nervous system. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it focuses on “the area of the spinal cord called gray matter, and the muscles and reflexes in the body become weak.”
The CDC said the condition isn’t new, “but the increase in cases we saw starting in 2014 is new.” Most of the cases have been in children.
Symptoms include arm and leg weakness, loss of muscle tone and reflexes, in addition to facial drooping or weakness, difficulty moving the eyes, drooping eyelids, difficulty with swallowing or slurred speech.
The agency says there are several possible causes, including “viruses, environmental toxins, and genetic disorders.” Less than one in a million people get it each year nationwide, the CDC estimates.
Kelly Tynan’s son Dermot was diagnosed when he was 23 months old in 2014. “All the sudden out of nowhere he just lost the ability to stand up,” said Tynan.
Dr. Marcelo Matiello is a neurologist at Mass General. He says most cases are found in kids between the ages of three and 11.
“So far we don’t understand how this virus is causing the problems in the neurology system,” said Dr. Matiello. “There are a variety of outcomes, some are very bad, people have permanent disability. Some kids do improve.”
Kelly Tynan says Dermot is “living a full life and is as happy as any five year old boy can be.”
According to CNN, at least 30 states have cases that were confirmed, suspected or being investigated.