AFM: What you need to know about acute flaccid myelitis

Faith Castro
October 14, 2018

There were two other suspected cases of AFM in the state earlier this year, according to Schultz.

Muscle weakness, difficulty swallowing and facial drooping are all signs of the polio-like illness that's now showing up in hospitals.

State and federal officials are now investigating six possible cases of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) in Washington state.

At Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare in St. Paul, physicians are treating some of the six Minnesota cases. It also does not include the cases in Minnesota or IL, as they are not confirmed.

There was a cluster of nine cases of AFM in Washington state back in 2016 and three cases previous year.

IDPH is working with the health care providers to collect necessary information to send to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

State health officials said that AFM is not a disease that is required to be reported, so the number of cases is based on those who have voluntarily reported it. Among the viruses that can cause AFM are West Nile virus and poliovirus. Potential causes can be viruses, environmental toxins and genetic disorders, the CDC said.

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Health officials are warning parents to be on the lookout for symptoms. Cook Children's Medical Center has diagnosed three patients with AFM in 2018.

"We've been vigilant", Sanford Health Pediatric Infectious Disease Physician Dr. Clifford Mauriello said. AFM can cause a range of types and severity of symptoms, but the commonality among them is a loss of strength or movement in one or more arms or legs. The condition affects the gray matter area of the spinal cord and causes weakness in the body's muscles and reflexes.

All of the patients are children who have needed to be hospitalized, the department said, noting that "nearly all have fully recovered". In 2017 there were three cases, and since the beginning of 2018 there has been one case in the state.

Doctors say the best way to prevent AFM is frequent handwashing and keeping children home and away from others when they are sick.

This year alone - from January through September - there have been 38 confirmed cases in 16 different states, according to the agency.

Nine cases were reported in Washington in 2016. Practices such as regular hand-washing are recommended.

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