Medical

Six cases of rare 'polio-like' illness diagnosed in children in Minnesota

Six cases of rare 'polio-like' illness diagnosed in children in Minnesota

Minnesota typically sees less than one case a year, the state Department of Health reported.

The condition - which attacks the nervous system - causes symptoms including neck weakness or stiffness, drooping eyelids or a facial droop and difficulty swallowing or slurred speech. "All recent Minnesota cases have been in children under 10 years old and all were hospitalized".

AFM is not new, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported seeing an uptick in cases starting in 2014. 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. The CDC says little is known about what causes the disease.

The Minnesota Health Department, as well as the CDC will continue to collect information an evaluate the cases.

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

Indeed, AFM is exceedingly rare: The CDC estimates that fewer than one in a million people in the USA get it each year, though it has been on the rise since a 2014 outbreak, sparking a CDC investigation. It mainly affects children. AFM can be diagnosed by examining a person's nervous system, taking an MRI scan and testing the cerebral spinal fluid.

AFM is believed to be caused by viruses, notably the enterovirus D68.

"From what my understanding is, if there is an external causal agent, it may be hard to determine when the exposure to that agent occurs", Kenyon said.

All of the cases involve infants or children under the age of six.

How is it prevented and treated? Until then, doctors are treating the cases as if they are AFM. A 2-year-old girl underwent occupational therapy and a nerve transfer operation after she lost the use of her right arm, the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia said last month.

Minnesota health officials are left baffled, and urging doctors to keep their eyes out for a rare condition that can lead to paralysis.

Health officials are warning parents to be on the lookout for symptoms. It has, however, been linked to a number of common germs that cause colds, sore throats and respiratory infections as well as to other viruses, including poliovirus, non-polio enteroviruses and mosquito-borne viruses, such as the Zika virus. Dr. Acosta said there is no cure or treatment at this time.