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Rare Paralysis Cases in Children Are Investigated in Minnesota

11 October 2018
Rare Paralysis Cases in Children Are Investigated in Minnesota

Six children in Minnesota have been detected with an exceptional "polio-like" bug since mid-September, state health officials said, all the latest cases were in kids below 10. Minnesota typically records one case of AFM each year, and some years it does not have any at all, the department said.

AFM is a condition that affects the body's nervous system, targets the spinal cord, and could lead to paralysis. AFM or neurologic conditions like it have a variety of causes such as viruses, environmental toxins, and genetic disorders.

The Minnesota Department of Health said that the state had three cases of AFM in 2014. "It's incredibly heartbreaking to see this".

Between August 2014 and August 2018, the CDC received information on 362 cases of AFM nationwide.

This coincided with a national outbreak of enterovirus D68 (EV-D68), leading experts to believe acute flaccid myelitis is associated with the respiratory illness.

Symptoms of AFM are comparable to polio, including numbness of the limbs, facial drooping and slurred speech. The CDC says little is known about what causes the disease. "A person's arms and legs can become weak or paralyzed depending on the area of the spinal cord that is inflamed".

Since 2014, more than 360 cases of AFM have been reported in the U.S.

Additionally, the CDC has found a possible link between an increase in a respiratory virus and an increase of AFM. "While we don't know if it is effective in preventing AFM, washing your hands often with soap and water is one of the best ways to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to other people".

"It seems that there are specific strains of enterovirus that may be more likely to cause acute flaccid myelitis in a small percentage of children that have it", says Dr. Eric Robinette, pediatric infectious disease physician at Akron Children's Hospital. This year, there was one case of AFM before the current batch of five affected children. "We know that some patients diagnosed with AFM have recovered quickly, and some continue to have paralysis and require ongoing care", the CDC said.

Messacar said it's important is for parents to seek immediate medical help if their child shows symptoms of weakness in the muscles of the face or throat.

Diagnosis includes a brain and spine MRI and a spinal tap to test fluid.

On Monday, news broke that six children in Minnesota have been infected with the rare disease that causes lowered mobility or paralysis in the arms and legs.