What to Know
- New Jersey has seen three confirmed cases of a rare paralyzing illness known as acute flaccid myelitis, its health department said
- U.S. officials on Tuesday said they'd seen a jump in cases of the illness this year, with at least 62 confirmed cases in 22 states this year
- New Jersey's health department is also investigating three additional reports of the illness, it said
New Jersey has seen three confirmed cases of a rare paralyzing illness affecting children that has been on the rise throughout the country this year, its state Department of Health said.
U.S. health officials on Tuesday said they’ve seen a jump in cases of the illness known as acute flaccid myelitis, with at least 62 confirmed cases in 22 states this year and at least 65 additional illnesses being investigated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Three of the confirmed cases were in New Jersey, the New Jersey Department of Health said. The department is also investigating three additional reports of the illness, it said.
The illness affects the nervous system and “can cause the muscles to become weak,” according to the department. Its cause is unknown, with health officials ruling out suspects like polio and West Nile virus.
“Most patients will have sudden onset of weakness of the arms and legs and loss of muscle tone and reflexes,” the department said. “Some people will also have drooping of the face and/or eyelids, difficulty speaking or moving the eyes.”
Last year, New Jersey had one confirmed case, according to the department. In 2016, meanwhile, the state saw six confirmed cases, the department said.
New York State, on the other hand, hasn’t seen any confirmed cases of acute flaccid myelitis so far this year, its Department of Health said on its website.
In "rare instances," the illness can be caused by a serious respiratory virus known as enterovirus EV-D68, which has been confirmed in 39 children in the state, the department said.
Acute flaccid myelitis appears to become more widespread every other year, U.S. health officials said.
Between August 2014 and September 2018, the CDC saw 386 confirmed cases of the illness across the country, most of which affected children.
The illness, however, "remains a very rare condition" that less than one in a million people in the country get each year, the CDC noted.
"While we don't know the cause of most of the AFM cases, it's always important to practice disease prevention steps, such as staying up-to-date on vaccines, washing your hands and protecting yourself from mosquito bites," the CDC said on its website.