Minnesota kids suffer rare, polio-like disorder

Stock image of a sick child

The condition is called acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM, which attacks the nervous system and can lead to arm or leg weakness and loss of muscle reflexes.

Six children in Minnesota have been diagnosed with acute flaccid myelitis since September 20. An investigation is underway to determine what caused these specific cases of AFM. She also requested the agency answer seven questions about its response efforts by October 16 and conduct a member-level briefing for senators seeking more information on the issue. She says A-F-M is serious but rare, affecting about one in a million people. "I urge the CDC to provide more information immediately about preventive measures and treatments". "The patients are now undergoing diagnostic procedures and treatment", the hospital said in a statement to Pittsburgh's Channel 11. There were 33 in 2017 and 149 in 2016.

Much is still unknown about AFM and often, a cause for AFM can not be identified. The average for the state is less than one case a year. It mainly affects children. The CDC also advises washing hands with soap and water and covering your cough or sneeze, standard practices to reduce the spread of germs.

AFM cases first spiked in the United States in August 2014.

Minnesota usually only sees at most one case a year, so the outbreak of the polio-like illness is concerning. "Cases have been reported from the Twin Cities, central Minnesota and northeastern Minnesota", the state health department said in a statement.

Symptoms include drooping face and eyelids, difficulty moving eyes and swallowing, and slurred speech. Among the viruses that can cause AFM are West Nile virus and poliovirus. In severe cases, children might have trouble breathing and need a ventilator because of muscle weakness.

In Washington, all of the patients suspected of having AFM are under age 6 and all had symptoms of a respiratory illness in the week before developing symptoms of AFM, the Department of Health reported on Wednesday.

Parents who see AFM symptoms in their children, such as not using an arm, should contact health providers as soon as possible so that diagnostic tests such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and cerebral spinal fluid testing can be done as soon as possible.

Kris Ehresmann with the state Health Department advises parents, "Any kind of acute muscle weakness in their kids, in arms and legs, that obviously doesn't have anything to do with spraining your ankle at soccer, that definitely they should seek medical attention". This is because CDC is asking doctors to be alert for patients with symptoms of AFM so that we can learn more about this condition.

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