Six Cases of Rare, Polio-like Illness in MN Children

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State health officials have issued an alert to doctors after six Minnesota children were diagnosed with a rare, polio-like disorder that causes reduced mobility or paralysis in the arms and legs.

Symptoms of acute flaccid myelitis include sudden onset of weakness in the arms or legs, as well as drooping facial muscles, including the eyelids, and difficulty moving the eyes. 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.

Up through September of this year, 38 cases of AFM have been confirmed in 16 states, according to the CDC, and 362 people have contracted AFM since August 2014.

However, there has been a national uptick in cases of AFM since 2014, with 362 cases recorded between 2014 and 2018, according to the CDC and the Minnesota Department of Health.

However, oftentimes, even with extensive lab tests, the cause of a patient's AFM is not identified. If their children start to show symptoms of AFM, they are being told to bring them to the hospital immediately.

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Three children in Pittsburgh are being treated for a rare polio-like disease as the illness continues to spread throughout the country.

"The CDC has indicated there might be some increases in cases, and in mid-September we advised health care providers to be vigilant and report to the health department so that we can pass on the information to the CDC", Arnold said. There is one more case that is being looked at by the CDC that could make a fourth. The first of the six diagnoses was made in mid-September. As limbs become weak, a patient might lose the ability to use their arms or legs.

There is no specific treatment for AFM, and the long-term outcomes for AFM patients is unknown.

With research, doctors are trying to figure out if AFM is coming from the same enterovirus family, but not every child diagnosed with AFM has the virus. The disease was most prevalent in 2014 when 120 cases, most in Colorado and California, were reported. This virus is transmitted from person to person and it can have severe effects of the brain and spinal cord of the system. Staying update on recommended immunizations is also important to avoiding vaccine preventable illnesses. It has, however, been linked to a number of common germs that cause colds, sore throats and respiratory infections as well as to other viruses, including poliovirus, non-polio enteroviruses and mosquito-borne viruses, such as the Zika virus.

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