Published: Thu, October 11, 2018
Medicine | By Earnest Bishop

What is acute flaccid myelitis? Rare Minnesota cases raise questions

What is acute flaccid myelitis? Rare Minnesota cases raise questions

If the condition worsens, symptoms can lead to paralysis or death.

AFM affects the nervous system and causes, mostly in children, paralysis similar to polio.

Six children in Minnesota have been diagnosed with a rare illness that resembles polio, according to news reports.

"It is important to know that even though this is a rare condition and is being reported as a mystery illness, we really do understand much more about the causes of this disease", he said.

Causes of AFM include viruses, environmental toxins and genetic disorders.

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

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Symptoms can include sudden weakness in limbs, loss of reflexes, unability to control facial expressions, difficulty moving the eyes, drooping eyelids, difficulty swallowing, or slurred speech, the CDC reports. Since then, however, the Minnesota Department of Health said it has seen an AFM case about once a year.

Treating a variety of diseases for children, Dr. Fernando Acosta Jr. has been a neurologist at Cook Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth for 12 years. AFM is basically a viral infection and its exact cause of happening is still not known. After a diagnosis is made, health providers and investigators try to retrace the path of the illness to its source.

All six were under the age of 10 and reported weakness and paralysis in the arms and legs. There is one more case that is being looked at by the CDC that could make a fourth.

If you see potential symptoms of AFM in your child-for example, if they are not using their arms properly-the MDH recommends contacting a health care provider as soon as possible.

The disease is not new, but there was an uptick in cases starting in 2014, the CDC says. There's still a lot doctors don't know about it, and there aren't specific treatments available. There's no vaccine against EV-D68 or EV-A71, so the same precautions apply as for any other infectious disease: people should wash their hands frequently, stay home when they are sick, cover coughs and sneezes and stay away from people who are coughing and sneezing. The condition can be diagnosed by examining a person's nervous system, taking a magnetic resonance imaging scan and testing the cerebral spinal fluid. It has, however, been linked to a number of common germs that cause colds, sore throats and respiratory infections as well as to other viruses, including poliovirus, non-polio enteroviruses and mosquito-borne viruses, such as the Zika virus.

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