Published: Thu, October 11, 2018
Health Care | By Oscar Goodwin

Concerns growing over rare polio-like condition in children

Concerns growing over rare polio-like condition in children

A rare condition known for its polio-like effects has been diagnosed in six Minnesota children since mid-September.

"It is very rare and it is certainly something we're taking very seriously", said Kris Ehresmann, who directs the Health Department's infectious disease section. It affects the nervous system, specifically the area of spinal cord called gray matter, which causes the muscles and reflexes in the body to become weak.

Health experts say the disease can lead to paralysis and even death. "It's incredibly heartbreaking to see this". "Isolation protocols and infection control procedures are in place and we're working with the CDC and the Allegheny County Health Department to further monitor and evaluate the patient conditions".

Since 2015, when IL began monitoring reports of AFM in the state, four confirmed cases have been identified.

The children have acute flaccid myelitis or AFM, a weakening of the nerves that resembles polio.

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Symptoms of AFM are comparable to polio, including numbness of the limbs, facial drooping and slurred speech.

"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", the CDC said on a page devoted to AFM. AFM cases have been reported from across the state, including the Twin Cities, central Minnesota, and northeastern Minnesota.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it has seen an increasing number of people across the US with the serious condition in the past four years.

Melaney Arnold of the Illinois Department of Public Health says health care providers in the state have reported nine cases of AFM.

According to the CDC, there have been 362 confirmed cases of Acute Flaccid Myelitis since 2014.

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"It starts off with a cold, cough, runny nose, congestion and then before you know it, you have weakness and paralysis of your arms and your legs", Dr. Janette Nesheiwat, a family physician, told ABC News. Minnesota saw three cases of AFM during that year.

Kris Ehresmann with the state Health Department advises parents, "Any kind of acute muscle weakness in their kids, in arms and legs, that obviously doesn't have anything to do with spraining your ankle at soccer, that definitely they should seek medical attention".

Diagnosis includes a brain and spine MRI and a spinal tap to test fluid.

Enteroviruses most commonly cause mild illness.

"It's a new presentation of an old disease", said Dr. Acosta.

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