Minnesota Children Diagnosed With Rare 'Polio-Like' Illness

Minnesota Children Diagnosed With Rare 'Polio-Like' Illness

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) is investigating six cases of a rare condition called acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) that occurred since mid-September in Minnesota children.

Minnesota typically sees less than that one case a year, but the disease usually targets children.

AFM is a condition that affects the body's nervous system, targets the spinal cord, and could lead to paralysis.

The number of cases of the illness, also known as AFM, is the highest in the state since 2014, when there were three reported cases, the health authorities said. "It's incredibly heartbreaking to see this".

It's so rare that less than one in a million will get AFM, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. By the end of that year, 120 people had been diagnosed in 34 states.

This coincided with a national outbreak of enterovirus D68 (EV-D68), leading experts to believe acute flaccid myelitis is associated with the respiratory illness.

Most affected by the disorder have a sudden onset of arm or leg weakness, as well as a loss of muscle tone and reflexes to the affected limb.

This condition is not new, according to the CDC, but the agency began seeing an increase in cases four years ago, nearly all involving young children.

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"It starts off with a cold, cough, runny nose, congestion and then before you know it, you have weakness and paralysis of your arms and your legs", Dr. Janette Nesheiwat, a family physician, told ABC News.

The regular cases in Minnesota are of children under age 10. They come from all over the state, including the Twin Cities area and northeastern and central Minnesota.

The patients' symptoms have been most similar to complications of infection with certain viruses, including poliovirus, non-polio enteroviruses, adenoviruses, and West Nile virus. And, unlike the viral disease polio, AFM's more elusive cause means there is no vaccine.

Two-year-old Julia Payne is one of two children being treated for AFM in Chicago.

If your child is experiencing any symptoms of AFM, you should contact your health care provider immediately.

There is no single treatment for AFM, but a neurologist may recommend therapy. Acute flaccid myelitis is tricky to diagnose and may require tests of spinal fluid, as well as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

"While they have been looking for all different types of possible infectious reasons for this, they have not really been able to figure what's causing this, and there may be multiple causes".

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