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Minnesota Children Diagnosed With ‘Polio-like’ Paralyzing Illness

11 October 2018

The Centers for Disease Control is expressing concern about an increase in confirmed cases of acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM, a neurologic condition that occurs mostly in children and can cause weakness in the arms and legs.

The cases of acute flaccid myelitis started showing up in Minnesota before mid-September, all in children under 10. It's very rare and typically affects the nervous system, specifically the spinal cord which could lead to paralysis in some cases. From August 2014 through August 2018, the CDC received information on 362 cases of AFM. "It's incredibly heartbreaking to see this".

"It is important to know that even though this is a rare condition and is being reported as a mystery illness, we really do understand much more about the causes of this disease", he said.

Colorado has had 14 AFM cases so far this year, state epidemiologist Rachel Herlihy, MD, MPH, told NBC News. The cause of any individual case of AFM can be hard to determine, and often, no cause is found. CDC specialists will make the final determination if these cases are AFM. The signs include sudden muscle weakness in the arms or legs; neck weakness or stiffness; a drooping face or eyelids; difficulty swallowing; and slurred speech, health officials say.

Officials said all of them had symptoms of a respiratory illness the week before they developed symptoms of AFM.

According to a statement released by the agency, the state normally sees about one case of AFM per year, though there was a nationwide spike in 2014 following an outbreak of an enterovirus called EV-68.

All of the cases involve infants or children under the age of six.

AFM appears to mainly affect children, and all of the cases in Minnesota have occurred in children under 10, the MDH said in an October 5 statement. Cases have been reported from the Twin Cities, central and northeastern Minnesota.

While there are a variety of possible causes for the disease, there is no known cure.

Without a clear cause, it's not possible to say whether more children will be diagnosed with AFM, Ehresmann says.

7-year-old Quentin Hill is one of six kids diagnosed with the illness in Minnesota. While there is no specific treatment for AFM, doctors may recommend certain interventions on a case-by-case basis. This virus is transmitted from person to person and it can have severe effects of the brain and spinal cord of the system. These include washing hands frequently to limit exposure to germs, covering the mouth when coughing or sneezing and staying home when feeling sick.

The family has felt helpless these past few weeks, dealing with a disease doctors know very little about, but thanks to other families, who are going through the same condition they are, they're now feeling better about their situation.

Minnesota Children Diagnosed With ‘Polio-like’ Paralyzing Illness