At least 62 cases have been confirmed in 22 states this year, and at least 65 additional illnesses in those states are being investigated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The CDC will determine whether the suspected cases in Maryland are AFM based on clinical information and lab tests, a spokeswoman for the state health department said in an email.
CNN has reported that this year, more than half of all US states have had confirmed or possible cases, including North and SC.
"Despite a lot of investigation by CDC and our partners, AFM remains a mystery disease", said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases for the CDC. She said that most AFM cases occur in the late summer and fall. "We actually don't know what is causing this increase".
The agency says there are several possible causes, including "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.
AFM is a condition in which the gray matter of the spinal cord becomes damaged, leading to muscle weakness and paralysis in one or multiple limbs. Symptoms include muscle weakness, droopy eyelids, problems swallowing, and slurred speech. But she stressed that despite the increase in cases, the illness is still very rare, occurring in fewer than 1 in a million people in the USA each year.
"We understand that people, particularly parents, are concerned about AFM", she said. Officials have been baffled by the increase, and are starting to count suspected cases as well as confirmed ones to better anticipate increases in confirmed cases over the coming months.
Some patients diagnosed with this condition have recovered quickly but others continue to have paralysis and require ongoing care, she said.
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A study published last year found 6 of 8 children in Colorado with acute flaccid myelitis still struggled with motor skills one year after their diagnosis. Then in 2016, there were 149 confirmed cases.
"My husband that noticed her arm was kind of just hanging there", her mother, Carlene, said.
Messonnier stressed that while she understands how frightening this situation is for parents, they should remember that the infections are, in fact, rare.
Officials have not determined a cause of the rare disease.
But Messonnier said that, in general, parents can help protect their children from diseases by washing their hands, making sure their children are up to date with vaccinations and applying insect repellent to protect against mosquito bites, which can spread viruses.
States are reporting their cases to the CDC, Messonnier said.
Health officials are able to confirm cases through a review of brain scans and symptoms. It's a rare disease, but the CDC thought that they might glean more about the nature of the outbreak, as well as clues about how to contain it, by releasing a report to the public.