Published: Thu, October 11, 2018
Medicine | By Daryl Nelson

Concerns growing over rare polio-like condition in children

Concerns growing over rare polio-like condition in children

At least six children in Minnesota have been diagnosed and hospitalized with acute flaccid myelitis (or AFM) since September 20. Minnesota typically records one case of AFM each year, and some years it does not have any at all, the department said.

AFM affects the nervous system, specifically, the central region of the spinal cord which is filled with grey matter-a type of nerve cell. Possible causes may include viruses, such as the poliovirus, West Nile virus, and adenoviruses, as well as environmental toxins or genetic factors. Health officials are collecting information about the cases from health providers and are in contact with the CDC, the MDH said. "It's incredibly heartbreaking to see this".

AFM is not new, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported seeing an uptick in cases starting in 2014.

Since August 2014, CDC has seen an increased number of people across the United States with AFM.

Most affected by the disorder have a sudden onset of arm or leg weakness, as well as a loss of muscle tone and reflexes to the affected limb. The disease was most prevalent in 2014 when 120 cases, most in Colorado and California, were reported.

Nationwide, a total of 38 people in 16 states were found by the CDC to have confirmed cases of AFM between January and September this year.

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The regular cases in Minnesota are of children under age 10.

The case of Orville Young, 4, was among the first in Minnesota to be reported. It mainly affects children. Polio once caused regular epidemics until vaccination wiped it out across most of the world. In very rare cases, it is possible that the process in the body that triggers AFM may also trigger other serious neurologic complications that could lead to death.

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".

7-year-old Quentin Hill is one of six kids diagnosed with the illness in Minnesota.

Diagnosis includes a brain and spine MRI and a spinal tap to test fluid.

EV-A71 is a common cause of hand, foot and mouth disease, an uncomfortable and highly contagious childhood illness marked by blisters or spots on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, in the mouth and elsewhere. Staying up to date on recommended immunizations is also important to avoiding vaccine-preventable illnesses, the health department said.

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