CDC: 6 Minnesota children sickened by polio-like illness

Glen Mclaughlin
October 11, 2018

The cases of acute flaccid myelitis started showing up in Minnesota before mid-September, all in children under 10.

AFM is not a reportable disease, meaning there may be more cases that were just treated and the child recovered and AFM wasn't diagnosed.

All six cases of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) have been reported since Sep. The Minnesota Department of Health identified the illness as acute flaccid myelitis, and said it was first reported on September 20.

"Most of the cases [of AFM] that CDC has learned about have been in children", the CDC writes on its website. "It's incredibly heartbreaking to see this". From August 2014 through August 2018, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention received information on 362 cases of AFM across the United States. There were only 33 reported cases past year, according to the CDC.

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AFM is believed to be caused by viruses, notably the enterovirus D68.

Basic symptoms usually add lower backache or sharp shooting sensations that shoot out down the legs or arms or around the torso, aural alterations, dotting symptoms, Difficulty moving the eyes or bending eyelids, Facial dangle or weakness, Difficulty with swallowing or slurred speech, sudden arm or leg weakness. There are no known treatments, and 38 cases have been confirmed in the US this year. AFM or neurologic conditions like it have a variety of causes such as viruses, environmental toxins, and genetic disorders.

"It is now hard to interpret trends of the AFM data", the CDC said. 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. Since then, they have typically seen less than one case a year. Though the AFM cases show a similar seasonality as polio, Osterholm said a difference in the recent AFM pattern is that most severe polio cases were in adults. Acute flaccid myelitis is tricky to diagnose and may require tests of spinal fluid, as well as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

To help lower the risk of getting the rare condition, experts recommend protecting yourself from any bacterial virus by washing your hands often with soap and water, staying up to date with vaccinations to prevent Poliovirus and prevent West Nile Disease by avoiding mosquito bites.

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