States and CDC probe reports of rare poliolike symptoms in kids

Faith Castro
October 11, 2018

According to the report of the state Department of Health, in Minnesota, there is one case per year of AFM and children are the most affected from this disease.

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

Even with extensive lab testing, AFM is hard to diagnose, because it so similar to other conditions, including poliovirus, West Nile virus and adenoviruses, the CDC reports.

"The increase in AFM cases in 2014 coincided with a national outbreak of severe respiratory illness among people caused by enterovirus D68 (EV-D68)", the CDC notes on its website. "It's incredibly heartbreaking to see this".

Colorado has had 14 AFM cases so far this year, state epidemiologist Rachel Herlihy, MD, MPH, told NBC News. Symptoms include sudden arm and leg weakness, drooping eyelids, facial weakness, difficulty moving the eyes, slurred speech and difficulty swallowing.

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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. "A person's arms and legs can become weak or paralyzed depending on the area of the spinal cord that is inflamed". Since 2014, more than 360 cases of AFM have been reported in the United States. "All recent Minnesota cases have been in children under 10 years old and all were hospitalized". They have been reported in 16 states.

Karen Hacker says medical professionals are still trying to figure out what causes AFM.

7-year-old Quentin Hill is one of six kids diagnosed with the illness in Minnesota. 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. The cause of most of the AFM cases is unknown.

Parents who see AFM symptoms in their children, such as not using an arm, should contact health providers as soon as possible so that diagnostic tests such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and cerebral spinal fluid testing can be done as soon as possible.

Two-year-old Julia Payne is one of two children being treated for AFM in Chicago. 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. So, just be sure to practice smart prevention measures such as getting vaccinated, washing your hands and avoiding bug bites.

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