Medical

Rare Polio-Like Illness Strikes 6 Minnesota Children

Rare Polio-Like Illness Strikes 6 Minnesota Children

Minnesota health officials have reported 6 children have been diagnosed [since September] with a rare disease known as Acute flaccid myelitis or AFM. Other symptoms may include: neck weakness or stiffness, drooping eyelids or a facial droop and difficulty swallowing or slurred speech. The disease typically affects children; all the recent cases in Minnesota were in children younger than 10.

Even with extensive lab testing, AFM is hard to diagnose, because it so similar to other conditions, including poliovirus, West Nile virus and adenoviruses, the CDC reports.

"MDH disease investigators are working aggressively with healthcare providers to gather information about the cases", the agency said in a statement.

Even with an increase in cases since 2014, AFM remains a very rare condition.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said as of Sep 30, there have been 38 cases reported from 16 states.

On Tuesday, the health authorities said three children suspected to have AFM were being treated at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. A 2-year-old girl was recently diagnosed in the Chicago area, and UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh confirmed that three children are now being treated for AFM at their facility. AFM can cause a range of types and severity of symptoms, but the commonality among them is a loss of strength or movement in one or more arms or legs.




One victim, 5-year-old Carter Roberts of Chesterfield, Virginia, died last month after developing AFM in 2016.

Karen Hacker says medical professionals are still trying to figure out what causes AFM. It was first identified in 2014, when 120 children were diagnosed.

"From what my understanding is, if there is an external causal agent, it may be hard to determine when the exposure to that agent occurs", Kenyon said.

While the Department of Health said there are no specific recommendations for avoiding AFM, people can take steps to reduce their risks from some known causes with frequent and thorough hand-washing, avoiding close contact with sick people, and cleaning surfaces with a disinfectant, especially those that a sick person has touched. 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.

Health officials are warning parents to be on the lookout for symptoms.

AFM is thought to happen after someone contracts a virus, like poliovirus, West Nile virus, or adenovirus, the CDC says. "Since we don't see a clear association with all of our cases with a particular virus or pathogen, the best we can do right now is to make sure you are doing everything you can".


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