Published: Wed, October 17, 2018
Health Care | By Oscar Goodwin

Health Department: 7th Case Of AFM Diagnosed In Minnesota

Despite that alarm, there are a lot of unknowns about the polio-like illness, including what causes it and why it affects children more than adults.

A seventh case has been "clinically diagnosed", but remains under review by the CDC. But officials haven't been able to find a single agent that would explain the clusters of cases that occur around the same time. We actually don't know what is causing this increase.

Beginning in the summer and fall of 2014, an apparent increase in reports of AFM occurred in the United States.

Nancy Messonnier, a doctor at the CDC, called it a "mystery illness".

The number of cases in 2018 is on track to match a similar number of cases in 2014 and 2016. One child with the disorder died in 2017. But the data reported Tuesday represents "a substantially larger number than in previous months this year", Messonnier said.

There is no specific treatment for AFM.

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It shows distinct abnormalities of the spinal cord gray matter on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

According to yesterday's warning issued by the CDC, the disease could be linked to environmental toxins, genetic disorders or other viruses such as West Nile.

The average age of children is about 4, she said, and 90 percent of cases the CDC has been studying since 2014 have involved children 18 or younger. Maryland's first case was reported September 21.

No known cases have been reported in Virginia or the District this year, but there were three confirmed cases in Virginia in 2016, health department officials said.

"As a parent myself I understand what it's like to be scared for your child", Messonnier said. Some with AFM will feel weakness in their arms or legs, a loss of muscle tone or slower reflexes.

Officials said some patients diagnosed with AFM recover quickly, while others need ongoing care. Fifteen states said they'd confirmed cases this year.

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She said that CDC has tested every stool specimen from AFM patients.

"The most common etiology is probably a viral infection that starts off the process, and there's probably several different viruses that can cause acute flaccid myelitis", said Dr. Samuel Dominguez, medical director of the clinical microbiology laboratory at Children's Hospital Colorado.

Benjamin Greenberg, a neurologist who has treated children with AFM at the University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas, said AFM is "exquisitely rare". "So we're very lucky that he had (physical therapy) through early intervention".

The disease made headlines recently when news broke of cases in Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Iowa and other states.

This article was originally published by The Washington Post.

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