What is acute flaccid myelitis, the mysterious polio-like disorder affecting kids?

Rare Polio-Like Illness Strikes 6 Minnesota Children

Quinton Hill, 7, spent two weeks in a hospital undergoing a range of tests, according to his parents, before he was finally diagnosed with acute flaccid myelitis, also known as AFM, a rare and serious condition that typically strikes children and affects the nervous system resulting in muscle and nerve weakness. For example, in Minnesota, cases of AFM were generally stagnant at about one case per year, but now six children have been confirmed to have AFM in 2018 alone.

The disease can develop from a viral infection and impacts the nervous system by traveling through the spinal cord, but its cause is unknown.

The exact reasons that the condition appears are not known, but neurological conditions have a variety of triggers, such as viruses, environmental toxins and genetic disorders, the CDC said. "It's incredibly heartbreaking to see this".

However, there has been a national uptick in cases of AFM since 2014, with 362 cases recorded between 2014 and 2018, according to the CDC and the Minnesota Department of Health. And at the end of 2104, total numbers of people affected from AFM were 120 in 34 states. These cases coincided with a severe respiratory illness caused by enterovirus D68.

"If their child gets an enteroviral infection, they need to look for symptoms such as sudden onset of arm and leg weakness, difficulty swallowing".

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.

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All of the cases involve infants or children under the age of six. "Cases have been reported from the Twin Cities, central Minnesota and northeastern Minnesota", the state health department said in a statement. Minnesota saw three AFM cases that year.

Additionally, the CDC has found a possible link between an increase in a respiratory virus and an increase of AFM.

There's no cure and some children appear to have long-term disabilities, while others recover completely or almost completely.

It's always important to practice disease prevention steps, such as staying up-to-date on vaccines, washing your hands, and protecting yourself from mosquito bites.

"It seems that there are specific strains of enterovirus that may be more likely to cause acute flaccid myelitis in a small percentage of children that have it", says Dr. Eric Robinette, pediatric infectious disease physician at Akron Children's Hospital.

If your child is experiencing any symptoms of AFM, you should contact your health care provider immediately. However, doctors who specialize in treating brain and spinal cord illnesses may recommend certain interventions on a case-by-case basis.

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