Anthrax scare reveals more CDC lab safety problems (copy)

One case of a rare paralyzing illness, affecting mostly children, has been confirmed in South Carolina, the state health department said Tuesday. 

Doctors in South Carolina are not required to report individual cases of acute flaccid myelitis to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, but multiple cases are subject to mandatory reporting requirements, said DHEC spokeswoman Laura Renwick.

"Providers will often consult with DHEC when they suspect AFM as a complication of an infectious disease," she said. 

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on Tuesday that 62 cases of acute flaccid myelitis have been confirmed in 22 states. More than 90 percent of the confirmed cases have been in children 18 and younger, with the average age being 4 years old.

About 90 percent of the cases are in children who have suffered muscle weakness or paralysis. Most children recover.

There is no specific treatment for the disorder, and long-term outcomes are unknown. The rare but serious disorder affects a person’s nervous system, specifically the spinal cord. Neurological conditions like it have a variety of causes, such as viruses, environmental toxins and genetic disorders.

Despite extensive laboratory and other testing, CDC has not been able to find the cause for the majority of the cases. Some possible suspects, such as polio and West Nile virus, have been ruled out. Another kind of virus is suspected, but it’s been found in only some of the cases.

“There is a lot we don’t know about AFM, and I am frustrated that, despite all of our efforts, we haven’t been able to identify the cause of this mystery illness," said Nancy Messonnier, a top CDC official. 

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Experts say the disease seems to be following an every-other-year pattern.

Waves of similar illnesses occurred in 2014 and 2016. 

From August 2014 through September 2018, 368 cases have been confirmed across the country.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.