Minnesota kids suffer rare, polio-like disorder

11 October, 2018, 04:13 | Author: Denise Dawson
  • Six Minnesota children diagnosed with rare polio-like disease

In an Oct 5 statement, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) said it is investigating six AFM cases that have occurred in children since the middle of September.

Most affected by the disorder have a sudden onset of arm or leg weakness, as well as a loss of muscle tone and reflexes to the affected limb. The disease typically affects children; all the recent cases in Minnesota were in children younger than 10.

AFM "can be a complication following a viral infection, but environmental and genetic factors may also contribute to its development", the Minnesota Department of Health said.

Ehresmann says parents are urged to follow normal procedures for reducing illness transmission - including encouraging regular hand-washing, keeping kids home when they're sick, avoiding mosquito bites and keeping children up-to-date on vaccinations - and to contact health care providers immediately if children show any signs of AFM, namely muscle weakness. Nationwide, the CDC has confirmed 362 AFM cases between August 2014 and August 2018.

There's no cure and some children appear to have long-term disabilities, while others recover completely or almost completely. AFM can be diagnosed by examining a person's nervous system, taking an MRI scan and testing the cerebral spinal fluid. The cause of most of the AFM cases is unknown. One in three patients at Cook Children's has seen an improvement by doing physical therapy.

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

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"There is obviously a lot of concern about it, but it is rare", Griffith said. "And then there is lag time until the spinal inflammation".

Minnesota officials have not yet identified a particular virus in the six cases there.

AFM is not known to be contagious, she said. There are no specific treatments for AFM, so doctors may decide on certain treatments on a case-by-case basis. He said, "If one arm isn't working correctly, or one leg, or one side of the body, or if you notice an asymmetry in the face where one side looks very different than the other side, that child should be evaluated".

Health officials in Minnesota and at the CDC have recommended general preventive steps.

"Not because it's happening more it's just that we're recognizing it more", Dr. Esper says. "Since we don't see a clear association with all of our cases with a particular virus or pathogen, the best we can do right now is to make sure you are doing everything you can".

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