Polio-Like Illness Strikes 6 Children in Minnesota

Rare Polio-Like Illness Strikes 6 Minnesota Children

Three children at UPMC Children's Hospital are suspected of having AFM, while 38 others in 16 states have been diagnosed recently.

Six children in Minnesota have been detected with an exceptional "polio-like" bug since mid-September, state health officials said, all the latest cases were in kids below 10.

Symptoms include drooping face and eyelids, difficulty moving eyes and swallowing, and slurred speech.

In a separate statement, the agency said that it was "aware of several patients in Minnesota who have clinical symptoms" consistent with AFM and that it was "working closely with the Minnesota State Health Department to investigate these cases".

From August 2014 through August 2018, CDC has received information on a total of 362 cases of Acute Flaccid Myelitis (AFM) across the USA; most of the cases continue to occur in children.

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

This condition is not new, according to the CDC, but the agency began seeing an increase in cases four years ago, nearly all involving young children. Health officials are collecting information about the cases from health providers and are in contact with the CDC, the MDH said. Despite the increase, the condition is still considered very rare, occurring in fewer than one in a million people in the USA each year. There is no known cause or cure but it may be related to the virus that causes the common cold.

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All of the cases involve infants or children under the age of six. This disease, AFM is not exactly like polio as it has no vaccination.

However, he said it wouldn't be surprising to see an enterovirus fill an infectious disease niche left by polio, given that polio is also caused by an enterovirus. Minnesota saw three cases of AFM during that year.

A 2016 report found there were 120 cases recorded across 34 states from August through December 2014.

How is it prevented and treated? Since there is no specific treatment as of yet, neurologists can recommend certain interventions on a case-by-case basis, recommending physical or occupational therapy to help with limb weakness. "It's a very devastating situation" for the children and their families, she said.

Health experts say the disease can lead to paralysis and even death. Symptoms are similar to complications from other viruses such as the West Nile Virus or the poliovirus.

"We think that in some cases, there might be a virus or some pathogen that you are initially infected with", Kenyon said.

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