Published: Fri, October 12, 2018
Medical | By Josefina Yates

What is acute flaccid myelitis? Rare Minnesota cases raise questions

What is acute flaccid myelitis? Rare Minnesota cases raise questions

According to the Washington Department of Health, the children are being evaluated for acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), a rare condition that affects a person's nervous system and can cause paralysis. Symptoms typically begin with a fever or cough, followed by sudden weakness in limbs, drooping of the eyes, slurred speech or difficulty swallowing.

Two cases were reported in King County. On its website, the CDC explains that non-polio enteroviruses, which normally don't make people sick and if they do, it's often the common cold, can cause AFM.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it has seen an increasing number of people across the US with the serious condition in the past four years. Most of the children have recovered, she added.

"Not because it's happening more it's just that we're recognizing it more", Dr. Esper says. This year, there was one case of AFM before the current batch of five affected children.

During 2015, CDC did not receive information about large EV-D68 outbreaks in the United States, and laboratories reported only limited EV-D68 detections to CDC's National Enterovirus Surveillance System (NESS).

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The CDC says it got information on 362 cases of the illness in the US from August 2014 through August 2018.

The cases of acute flaccid myelitis started showing up in Minnesota before mid-September, all in children under 10.

"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", according to the CDC.

The Star Tribune reports the polio-like disease came to the attention of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2014 after clusters were discovered in Colorado and California. "A person's arms and legs can become weak or paralyzed depending on the area of the spinal cord that is inflamed". It's possible that AFM has a variety of causes, including viruses (such as poliovirus and enteroviruses), environmental toxins and genetic disorders, the CDC says. "Cases are all under age 3 years with no underlying medical conditions", the state said in a health alert to doctors last June.

In her letter, Ms. Klobuchar asked Dr. Redfield to accelerate the CDC's response and investigation of the spike in AFM cases. "She went in for an X-ray and she couldn't hold her head up by herself anymore, which was very odd". In the most severe cases, a respirator might be required. These symptoms are similar to polio or the West Nile Virus. You can also protect yourself from mosquito-borne viruses such as West Nile virus-another known cause of AFM.

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