Six Minnesota Children Under 10 Have Contracted a Rare 'Polio-Like' Illness

Stock image of a sick child

Stock image of a sick child

While fewer than 1 in a million people in the USA are diagnosed with AFM each year, the CDC is concerned about the recurrent outbreaks, especially given the mysterious nature of the illness.

State health officials have issued an alert to doctors after six Minnesota children were diagnosed with a rare, polio-like disorder that causes reduced mobility or paralysis in the arms and legs.

Reports surfaced on Wednesday that two Chicago-area children are being treated at Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago for the illness - including 2-year-old Julia Payne, who has been fighting the illness for almost a month.

From August 2014 through August 2018, the CDC received reports of 362 AFM cases, mostly in children, it said.

The outcomes for those afflicted are varied, she said, with some patients recovering fully and others dealing with some level of paralysis for the rest of their lives. "We're working closely with medical providers and public-health agencies". The CDC says little is known about what causes the disease.

Recently, the Minnesota Department of Health announced six cases had been reported in children under 10 years old.

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Health officials are warning parents to be on the lookout for symptoms.

A child is being examined at Oishei Children's Hospital for what their parent suspects is a case of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), a condition affecting the nervous system that causes the body's muscles and reflexes to become weak. "The department is also in contact with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to share information". Some cases have been linked to poliovirus (polio) and West Nile virus, according to the CDC. In recent weeks seven children have been diagnosed with AFM in Minnesota and Iowa, including two children who required treatment in the intensive care unit for respiratory support. According to the Minnesota Department of Health, symptoms include sudden muscle weakness in the arms or legs, sometimes following a respiratory illness, neck weakness or stiffness, drooping eyelids or a facial droop, and difficulty swallowing or slurred speech.

There is no treatment for this disease. And at the end of 2104, total numbers of people affected from AFM were 120 in 34 states. "It nearly has to run its course and then you see where it settles out", he adds.

AFM cases first spiked in the United States in August 2014.

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.

AFM is a serious, but uncommon condition. "This is a very rare condition", he stresses.

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