Saturday, 15 December, 2018

"Polio-like" Disease may spread in Minnesota after Six Cases

Minnesota: Acute flaccid myelitis cases investigated across state Rare Polio-Like Illness Strikes 6 Minnesota Children
Johnnie Parks | 11 October, 2018, 04:13

Health officials in Minnesota are telling doctors to be on the lookout for a rare disorder called acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM.

Acute flaccid myelitis affects a person's nervous system and can paralyze a child's arms and legs.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which said AFM presents like polio or West Nile virus, estimates that fewer than one in a million people in the USA will get AFM each year.

Since mid-September, six children under the age of 10 were hospitalized and diagnosed with AFM in Minnesota. It sometimes - but not always - goes along with viral infections including polio, West Nile Virus and respiratory illnesses, but environmental and genetic factors may also play a part, the CDC says.

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. It seems to wax and wane from one year to the next, the CDC says.

Health experts say the disease can lead to paralysis and even death. Between 2014 and 2018, the CDC received reports of more than 360 cases.

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For reasons unknown, the disease typically develops only in children. In 2014, August, AFM first hit the US. As limbs become weak, a patient might lose the ability to use their arms or legs.

"Most of the cases [of AFM] that CDC has learned about have been in children", the CDC writes on its website.

Messacar said it's important is for parents to seek immediate medical help if their child shows symptoms of weakness in the muscles of the face or throat. Individuals diagnosed with acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) experience different issues due to largely gray matter involvement during recovery than traditional transverse myelitis with spastic paralysis. This year, there was one case of AFM before the current batch of five affected children.

While the Department of Health said there are no specific recommendations for avoiding AFM, people can take steps to reduce their risks from some known causes with frequent and thorough hand-washing, avoiding close contact with sick people, and cleaning surfaces with a disinfectant, especially those that a sick person has touched.

The CDC recommends getting children vaccinated against the poliovirus, as well as protecting against bites from mosquitos (which carry the West Nile virus).

Symptoms can include sudden arm or leg weakness, a loss of reflexes, facial droopiness or weakness, difficulty moving the eyes, drooping eyelids, difficulty swallowing, or slurred speech, the CDC says.

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