Minnesota grapples with outbreak of acute flaccid myelitis

Rare Polio-Like Illness Strikes 6 Minnesota Children

A rare but potentially severe condition that causes weakness or even paralysis in the arms and legs of children is on the rise, the Centers for Disease and Control of United States says.

Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh confirmed on Tuesday evening that three children suspected of having acute flaccid myelitis are being treated.

The CDC has acknowledged that 362 cases of AFM have been reported since 2014. "All recent Minnesota cases have been in children under 10 years old and all were hospitalized".

The Illinois Department of Public Health announced Wednesday that health care providers in the state have reported nine clinically-diagnosed cases of a rare condition that afflicts the nervous system, in particular the spinal cord.

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What is acute flaccid myelitis? "A person's arms and legs can become weak or paralyzed depending on the area of the spinal cord that is inflamed".

The exact reasons that the condition appears are not known, but neurological conditions have a variety of triggers, such as viruses, environmental toxins and genetic disorders, the CDC said. The signs include sudden muscle weakness in the arms or legs; neck weakness or stiffness; a drooping face or eyelids; difficulty swallowing; and slurred speech, health officials say. Some people may be unable to urinate, and, in severe cases, a person can suffer respiratory failure and need to be put on a ventilator. A 2016 report found there were 120 cases recorded across 34 states from August through December 2014. This condition is not new, but the increase in cases we saw starting in 2014 is new.

The condition can sometimes come on as a complication after a viral infection, or after a respiratory illness.

Although we are still learning about AFM and its causes, being up to date on all recommended vaccinations, including poliovirus, is one way to protect yourself and your family from diseases that can cause AFM. They can also cause neurologic illness, such as meningitis, encephalitis, and AFM, but these are rare. "The patients are now undergoing diagnostic procedures and treatment", the hospital said in a statement to Pittsburgh's Channel 11.

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AFM mainly affects children, for reasons which remain unclear.

"EV-D68 has been circulating in what looks like an every-other-year pattern", Messacar told NBC News.

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".

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