State's first case of AFM confirmed in Nebraska child

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Doctors aren't sure what causes the rare illness, but some believe a certain virus may be responsible for the recent uptick in cases. The department says from August 2014 through October 2018, there have been 440 confirmed cases of AFM in the U.S.

AFM affects the nervous system, causing paralysis that can lead to potentially deadly respiratory failure. An additional 170 possible cases remain unconfirmed and under investigation. In the most severe cases, the illness can leave a patient paralyzed.

With an increase in cases of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), a debilitating, polio-like disease that has been affecting children in NY and across the country, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand called on Congress to immediately provide emergency funding for research, treatment, and prevention efforts against this disease. The number of reports has been growing since 2014, when it first hit CDC's radar.

Nationwide, the number of confirmed cases is up from early November when the CDC announced 80 confirmed cases of AFM across 25 states. It is not known whether individuals in these states are more at risk of contracting AFM or if these states are just better at identifying and reporting cases, according to CNN. The CDC noted an odd pattern, in which there is a larger outbreak every two years. It has also convened a task force to get to the bottom of this mystery disease, and as CDC Director Robert Redfield, M.D., put it in a statement, "to actively detect, more effectively treat, and ultimately prevent AFM and its consequences". "And in children, which is where we're mostly seeing this condition, it's caused symptoms such as weakness of the arms, weakness of the legs, droopy eyelids, problems swallowing and things of that nature".

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The children involved in this outbreak have tested negative for polio and West Nile.

"As a parent myself, I understand what it is like to be scared for your child", Messonnier said.

The children's initial symptoms are similar to those associated with viral infections, she said.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is urging congress to quickly fund research of a polio-like disease that's affected hundreds of children across the country.