Published: Thu, October 11, 2018
Medicine | By Tracy Klein

AFM: "Polio-like" Illness has Affected 6 Minnesota Children


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. For example, in Minnesota, cases of AFM were generally stagnant at about one case per year, but now six children have been confirmed to have AFM in 2018 alone. Acute flaccid myelitis, also known as AFM, affects the body's nervous system, targeting the spinal cord, and can result in paralysis.

Ehresmann says parents are urged to follow normal procedures for reducing illness transmission - including encouraging regular hand-washing, keeping kids home when they're sick, avoiding mosquito bites and keeping children up-to-date on vaccinations - and to contact health care providers immediately if children show any signs of AFM, namely muscle weakness. "It's incredibly heartbreaking to see this".

A study of children diagnosed with AFM in Colorado in 2014 found that majority were better one year later, although most also had residual weakness in their arms and legs. Symptoms can include sudden arm and leg weakness, drooping eyelids, facial weakness, difficulty moving the eyes and slurred speech/difficulty swallowing.

This is an usually high number of patients, as the state has "typically seen less than one case a year" since the national uptick started in 2014, the release states.

"It starts off with a cold, cough, runny nose, congestion and then before you know it, you have weakness and paralysis of your arms and your legs", Dr. Janette Nesheiwat, a family physician, told ABC News.

And in 2018 alone, 38 new cases of AFM in 16 states across the country were confirmed by the CDC.

In a separate statement, the agency said that it was "aware of several patients in Minnesota who have clinical symptoms" consistent with AFM and that it was "working closely with the Minnesota State Health Department to investigate these cases".

Quinton Hill is one of six cases of AFM in Minnesota reported since September 20.

"As AFM affects mostly children and has no known cure, it is imperative that CDC conduct an expedited investigation and response to AFM infections", Ms. Klobuchar wrote in the letter. While uncommon, AFM is serious and can lead to paralysis or even death. And, unlike the viral disease polio, AFM's more elusive cause means there is no vaccine. However, doctors who specialize in treating brain and spinal cord illnesses may recommend certain interventions on a case-by-case basis.

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

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