What is acute flaccid myelitis? Rare Minnesota cases raise questions

Pearl Mccarthy
October 11, 2018

The recent cases in Minnesota-which were reported from the Twin cities, central Minnesota and northeastern Minnesota-involved children under 10 years of age, all of whom were hospitalized.

Cases of the "polio-like" illness acute flaccid myelitis are surfacing among more children across the US, with reports of the condition that can lead to paralysis and death coming in from several states over the last few days. Nationwide, 38 cases in 16 states have been reported and there is still no known cause. And, unlike the viral disease polio, AFM's more elusive cause means there is no vaccine.

The Minnesota Health Department, as well as the CDC will continue to collect information an evaluate the cases.

Symptoms can include sudden limb weakness, loss of muscle tone and reflexes, facial and eyelid drooping, facial weakness, difficulty moving the eyes, swallowing difficulty or slurred speech, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is actively investigating AFM cases, and trying to unearth more information about the rare condition. Another two possible cases are pending confirmation, officials said.

None of those cases are in Olmsted County, but it's still a concern across the state.

"The CDC will make the final determination on diagnoses and numbers are subject to change", the statement said.

"It's very, very rare - it's about one in a million", said Kris Ehresmann with the Minnesota Department of Health.

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On average, the Minnesota Department of Health sees only about one case per year.

Colorado has had 14 AFM cases so far this year, state epidemiologist Rachel Herlihy, MD, MPH, told NBC News.

Now there is no treatment for AFM, and the exact cause is unknown.

How is it prevented and treated? There is no particular treatment for AFM. A 2-year-old girl underwent occupational therapy and a nerve transfer operation after she lost the use of her right arm, the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia said last month.

Although we are still learning about AFM and its causes, being up to date on all recommended vaccinations is one way to protect yourself and your family from diseases that can cause AFM.

While aspects of the condition are puzzling, Messacar says it's no mystery disease.

Health officials in Minnesota and at the CDC have recommended general preventive steps. Some cases have been linked to poliovirus (polio) and West Nile virus, according to the CDC. "We're doing everything we can to keep the muscles healthy".

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