Rare Polio-Like Illness Strikes 6 Minnesota Children

Six Minnesota children diagnosed with rare polio-like disease

The Minnesota Department of Health recently announced six AFM cases have been classified in its state and were reported in children under 10 years old, living in the Twin Cities, central Minnesota and northeastern Minnesota.

Michael Osterholm, PhD, MPH, director of the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP), which publishes CIDRAP News, said today on a WCCO radio show that so far there's no clear picture of what's causing the periodic rises in AFM cases, which has mostly occurred in children. As limbs become weak, a patient might lose the ability to use their arms or legs.

The disorder is called acute flaccid myelitis - or AFM, for short - and there has been an increase in cases across the US since 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Symptoms include arm or leg weakness, loss of muscle tone and reflexes, facial droop/weakness, difficulty moving the eyes, drooping eyelids and difficulty with swallowing or slurred speech. There is no treatment but some symptoms can be managed. After treatment, the child was able to regain most of his muscle function, expect in his right arm, and is now in therapy, facing possible surgery.

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There was a national uptick in AFM cases in 2014.

Even with an increase in cases since 2014, AFM remains a very rare condition. The viruses that are accounted to cause AFM may be contagious from one person to another or may be spread by a mosquito or other vector depending on which virus causes the AFM. Since 2014, more than 360 cases of AFM have been reported in the United States. Viruses in the enterovirus genus - a group that includes the common cold and the polio virus - are most closely associated with AFM, though past cases have also been linked to West Nile virus, Japanese encephalitis virus, Saint Louis encephalitis, and adenoviruses. They can also cause neurologic illness, such as meningitis, encephalitis, and AFM, but these are rare. "Among the people confirmed with AFM, CDC did not consistently detect EV-D68 in every patient".

Again, this is a rare condition.

Normally when the people get affected with this disease, more than half of them don't recognize these symptoms as polio doesn't have any visible symptoms. Practices such as regular hand-washing are recommended. Not much is known about AFM, which mainly affects children, and it doesn't have a cure.

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