Published: Thu, October 18, 2018
Medicine | By Daryl Nelson

Health Department: 7th Case Of AFM Diagnosed In Minnesota

Acute flaccid myelitis, also called AFM, is a rare but serious condition that affects the nervous system and causes the muscles and reflexes to suddenly become weak, she said Tuesday.

There is no specific treatment for the disorder, and long-term outcomes are unknown.

It's possible that some milder cases haven't been reported by doctors to their state health department or the CDC, but Messonnier believes that number would be small. The CDC still has not pin-pointed exactly what's causing this disorder, but they suspect a virus that circulates this time of the year.

More broadly, she noted, "there is a lot we don't know about AFM".

AFM appears to target children at around age 4.

Acute flaccid myelitis can be caused by viruses, such as polio or West Nile.

The cases in 2014 and 2016 were partly attributed to particular strains of respiratory germs called enteroviruses, which spread the most in the summer and fall.

"We know that some patients diagnosed with AFM have recovered quickly and some continue to have paralysis and require ongoing care", Messonnier said, noting how most have a "sudden onset of weakness".

This year, five children in Maryland have come down with AFM symptoms, according to the Maryland Department of Health.

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Since the condition was first recognized by CDC in 2014, the agency has confirmed 362 cases. No known cases have been reported in Virginia or the District this year, but there were three confirmed cases in Virginia in 2016, health department officials said.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which releases only confirmed numbers, says 16 states had 38 cases as of September 30. Fifteen states said they'd confirmed cases this year.

Messonnier stressed that while she understands how frightening this situation is for parents, they should remember that the infections are, in fact, rare. Still, if a child experiences sudden weakness or loss of muscle tone in their arms or legs, parents should seek medical care right away, she said. "Parents need to know that AFM is very rare, even with the increase in cases that we are seeing now".

The CDC is investigating the cases and monitoring the disease, and encourages people to prevent the disease by staying up to date on vaccines, washing hands and protecting against mosquito bites.

"The majority of these patients are left with extensive problems", said Pardo-Villamizar, who was not involved in the study.

"At this moment, we don't know if it's a virus that is coming and producing direct damage of the gray matter in the spinal cord", he said, "or if a virus is triggering immunological responses that produce a secondary damage in the spinal cord". States are not required to provide this information to CDC, but they have been voluntarily reporting their data.

"My husband that noticed her arm was kind of just hanging there", her mother, Carlene, said.

Washington Post writers Dana Hedgpeth and Justin Wm.

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