More than 90% have been in children, and the average age is 4 years.
The surge has baffled health officials, who on Tuesday announced a change in the way the agency is counting cases. A spokeswoman for hospital said they have notified the health department and are working with the CDC to learn more about the illness. There was one confirmed death a year ago, the CDC said on Tuesday. In addition, officials do not yet know the long-term effects of AFM.
Each year since then, usually in August or September, the CDC has logged a spike in the illness.
One child has died from the condition. But mysteriously no other country has reported the emerging every-two-years pattern seen in the U.S., Messonnier said.
More broadly, she noted, "there is a lot we don't know about AFM". AFM can be diagnosed by examining a person's nervous system, taking an MRI scan and testing cerebral spinal fluid.
It's possible that some milder cases haven't been reported by doctors to their state health department or the CDC, but Messonnier believes that number would be small.
The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) told WCCO the seventh case of accute flaccid myelitis (AFM) has been clinically diagnosed in Minnesota.
Rarely, people with AFM can suffer respiratory failure and require ventilator support when their breathing muscles become too weak.
"As a parent myself I understand what it's like to be scared for your child", Messonnier said. "In very rare cases, it is possible that the process in the body that triggers AFM may also trigger other serious neurologic complications that could lead to death".
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Symptoms of AFM include sudden limb weakness, loss of muscle tone and reflexes, facial and eyelid drooping, difficulty moving the eyes, difficulty swallowing and slurred speech, the CDC said.
Messonnier said some patients diagnosed with AFM have recovered quickly while others continue to struggle with paralysis.
The first cases of AFM coincided with an unusually severe outbreak of a common virus that affects the lungs or gut.
There is no known single cause of AFM, whose symptoms include weakness in the arms or legs and sometimes paralysis.
Lacking an established cause, health officials confirm cases through a review of brain scans and symptoms.
In total, CNN found 47 confirmed cases and 49 more that were suspected or being investigated, for a total of 96. It follows a peculiar seasonal pattern, with the highest incidence occurring every other year in late summer or fall. West Nile virus is also not a culprit, she said.
To help prevent the illness' spread, the CDC advises proper hand washing, staying up to date on vaccines and using mosquito repellent to avoid bites.
"We are just learning about this illness ourselves".
Benjamin Greenberg, a neurologist who has treated children with AFM at the University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas, said AFM is "exquisitely rare". "So we're very lucky that he had (physical therapy) through early intervention".