Health officials report 6 cases of rare, polio-like virus in Minnesota

Minnesota: Acute flaccid myelitis cases investigated across state

Quinton Hill, 7, from Lakeville, Minnesota is one of several children in the state diagnosed with acute flaccid myelitis, a polio-like disorder that can cause paralysis.

"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 attacks the nervous system and can lead to arm or leg weakness and loss of muscle reflexes. Because the virus was present in many early confirmed cases of AFM, the CDC believes it to be a primary cause of the condition. "It's incredibly heartbreaking to see this".

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. According to the CDC, the largest number of cases, about 50, were reported in September 2014 before dropping to single digits in following months.

On Tuesday, the health authorities said three children suspected to have AFM were being treated at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. Other symptoms may include: neck weakness or stiffness, drooping eyelids or a facial droop and difficulty swallowing or slurred speech. Cases have been reported from 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 USA with the serious condition in the past four years.

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As of September 30, according to the CDC, 38 cases of AFM have been confirmed in 16 states. AFM symptoms include sudden muscle weakness in the arms or legs, sometimes following a respiratory illness. Some people may be unable to urinate, and, in severe cases, a person can suffer respiratory failure and need to be put on a ventilator.

If your child is experiencing any symptoms of AFM, you should contact your health care provider immediately.

Mertz still recommends staying up to date on vaccinations and practicing good hygiene to prevent spreading germs. Officials have not found a specific cause for the illness.

Minnesota typically sees less than one case a year, the state Department of Health reported. Acute flaccid myelitis is tricky to diagnose and may require tests of spinal fluid, as well as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Nearly any viral infection can cause neurological symptoms, although it's extremely unusual, so the CDC says it is also important to be fully up to date on vaccinations.

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