Rare, polio-like disease affecting children in USA, says CDC

Minnesota: Acute flaccid myelitis cases investigated across state

Minnesota: Acute flaccid myelitis cases investigated across state

AFM's cause is still unknown but it usually develops from a viral infection and affects the central nervous system, specifically the spinal cord. And at the end of 2104, total numbers of people affected from AFM were 120 in 34 states.

Two-year-old Julia Payne is one of two children being treated for AFM in Chicago. It caused some paralysis in his arm and put him in the hospital. Minnesota saw three cases of AFM during that year.

CDC has tested many different specimens from AFM patients for a wide range of pathogens (germs) that can cause AFM.

In very rare cases, AFM can trigger other serious neurologic complications that could lead to death. It can often infect people with mild flu-like symptoms or no symptoms at all. Viruses in the enterovirus genus - a group that includes the common cold and the polio virus - are most closely associated with AFM, though past cases have also been linked to West Nile virus, Japanese encephalitis virus, Saint Louis encephalitis, and adenoviruses. "This is a very rare condition", he stresses.

Experts aren't sure what is causing the increase, but they know the numbers started to go up about four years ago in 2014.

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

Symptoms include arm or leg weakness, loss of muscle tone and reflexes, facial droop/weakness, difficulty moving the eyes, drooping eyelids and difficulty with swallowing or slurred speech.

"But we do know that over time, with rehabilitation therapies, numerous children can regain function".

One victim, 5-year-old Carter Roberts of Chesterfield, Virginia, died last month after developing AFM in 2016.

The most severe symptom of AFM is respiratory failure that can happen when the muscles involved with breathing become weak. The condition can be diagnosed by examining a person's nervous system, taking a magnetic resonance imaging scan and testing the cerebral spinal fluid.

But there's not much else that parents can do to protect their children.

The MDH urges parents and children to take basic steps to avoid illnesses, such as frequent hand washing, covering coughs and sneezes, staying home when sick, keeping current with vaccinations, and protecting against mosquito bites.

Nearly any viral infection can cause neurological symptoms, although it's extremely unusual, so the CDC says it is also important to be fully up to date on vaccinations.