What is acute flaccid myelitis, the mysterious polio-like disorder affecting kids?

Minnesota: Acute flaccid myelitis cases investigated across state

Minnesota: Acute flaccid myelitis cases investigated across state

The Minnesota Department of Health identified the illness as acute flaccid myelitis, and said it was first reported on September 20. Arm and leg weakness are common symptoms, but the disease can also involve facial weakness; difficulty swallowing, speaking and passing urine; numbness; and tingling. "All recent Minnesota cases have been in children under 10 years old and all were hospitalized".

Between August 2014 and August 2018, the CDC received information on 362 cases of AFM nationwide. It can arise from a viral infection but environmental and genetic factors could also cause the illness to develop.

This condition is not new, according to the CDC, but the agency began seeing an increase in cases four years ago, nearly all involving young children. "Collecting information about suspected AFM cases is relatively new, and it is voluntary for most states to send this information to CDC". In the last few years, he's seen cases of a very rare condition called Acute Flaccid Myelitis.

Since 2014, more than 360 cases of AFM have been reported in the U.S. "It can affect people of any age, but you often see it in children", Adalja says.

Without a clear cause, it's not possible to say whether more children will be diagnosed with AFM, Ehresmann says. That was the case with Orville Young, a 4-year-old boy in Minnesota who lost mobility in his right arm and had difficulty sitting up and moving his legs.

"At this point, there isn't evidence that would point to a single source of illness among these cases", said Dr. Scott Lindquist, state infectious disease epidemiologist at the Department of Health.

A study of children diagnosed with AFM in Colorado in 2014 found that a lot of them were better one year later, although most also had residual weakness in their arms and legs.

How is it prevented and treated?

There is no treatment for AFM, but doctors advise frequent hand washing, covering of coughs, avoidance of mosquito bites and staying up to date on vaccinations. "It's a very devastating situation" for the children and their families, she said. "We know that some patients diagnosed with AFM have recovered quickly, and some continue to have paralysis and require ongoing care", the CDC said.

Minnesota health officials are left baffled, and urging doctors to keep their eyes out for a rare condition that can lead to paralysis.

Health officials in Minnesota and at the CDC have recommended general preventive steps. Symptoms are similar to complications from other viruses such as the West Nile Virus or the poliovirus.

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