The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating whether these children are infected with acute flaccid myelitis, a rare neurological illness. In particular, the condition can cause weakness in the arms and legs along with loss of muscle tone and problems with reflexes. All told 386 cases of AFM have been confirmed since 2014, more than 90 percent in children younger than 18.
State and national health authorities are raising the alarm about a polio-like "mystery illness" that has left dozens of children with paralysis and other symptoms in MA and 21 other states.
The CDC is investigating 127 reported cases, including the ones that have been confirmed.
There is no specific treatment for AFM, but treatments that have been tried include immunoglobulin replacement therapy, corticosteroids, plasma exchange and antiviral therapy, according to the National Institutes of Health. The disorder has been diagnosed in children who have received some of their recommended vaccinations and in unvaccinated children, she said.
Other countries have reported AFM cases, but not the same seasonal pattern the United States has experienced.
Outbreak of mysterious polio-like disease plagues residents in 22 states
Parents should seek medical care right away if their child develops sudden weakness or loss of muscle tone in the arms and legs. Two cases of the disease - acute flaccid myelitis - have been confirmed in MA with another four cases under investigation .
The mysterious increase in cases of AFM, as it's called, was first spotted in the late summer and autumn of 2014.
Media reports in recent weeks have suggested that a "polio-like virus" might be triggering the condition, elevating fears that it might be polio itself.
Parents have reported that the limbs of affected children appear lifeless.
The long-term effects are not known, and outcomes have been different for patients, with some recovering quickly and others having lasting paralysis and requiring ongoing care. "Parents need to know that AFM is very rare, even with the increase in cases that we are seeing now". West Nile virus is also not a culprit, she said. "For some of the previous cases we've identified one pathogen or another, but we have no unifying diagnosis". "What we do is a medication called immunoglobulins, and that's to decrease the inflammation that happens in the nerves and in the spinal cord".
Still, because this is a "pretty dramatic disease", Messonnier said health officials want to raise awareness about the symptoms to make sure parents seek medical care immediately if their children show a sudden onset of weakness in their arms and legs. But that bug - enterovirus D68 - could not be definitively linked to the illnesses.
The CDC encourages people to prevent the disease by staying up to date on vaccines, washing hands and protecting against mosquito bites.