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

Rare Polio-Like Illness Strikes 6 Minnesota Children

The Illinois Department of Public Health announced Wednesday that health care providers in the state have reported nine clinically-diagnosed cases of a rare condition that afflicts the nervous system, in particular the spinal cord.

Health officials are asking doctors to be on the lookout for children with a rare, polio-like illness after six cases were reported in Minnesota since September 20th. Symptoms typically include sudden weakness in one or more arms or legs, along with loss of muscle tone and decreased or absent reflexes.

Since 2015, the department had seen four cases of AFM, and the recent spike has officials working closely with health care providers to collect information to send to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The most common transmission of AFM is through a virus, exposure to environmental toxins and genetic disorders.

The number of cases of the illness, also known as AFM, is the highest in the state since 2014, when there were three reported cases, the health authorities said.

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Up through September of this year, 38 cases of AFM have been confirmed in 16 states, according to the CDC, and 362 people have contracted AFM since August 2014. It was first identified in 2014, when 120 children were diagnosed.

The health department says there are no specific recommendations for avoiding AFM, but washing your hands, avoiding close contact with sick people, cleaning surfaces with disinfectants, and staying up-to-date on immunizations is recommended. They come from all over the state, including the Twin Cities area and northeastern and central Minnesota. There was a national outbreak of severe respiratory diseases which were caused by the enterovirus D68. The average for the state is less than one case a year. "For example, neurologists may recommend physical or occupational therapy to help with arm or leg weakness caused by AFM".

The cause of AFM, and the reason for the rise in cases starting in 2014, is not known. This disease, AFM is not exactly like polio as it has no vaccination. It affects a person's nervous system, specifically the spinal cord.

Patients experienced weakness in one or more of their limbs, and all cases of AFM have been hospitalized, according to the Minnesota Health Department. "She went in for an X-ray and she couldn't hold her head up by herself anymore, which was very unusual". Symptoms are similar to complications from other viruses such as the West Nile Virus or the poliovirus. This is because CDC is asking doctors to be alert for patients with symptoms of AFM so that we can learn more about this condition.

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