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Acute flaccid myelitis cases investigated across state

11 October 2018

Thirty-eight confirmed cases of Acute Flaccid Myelitis have been diagnosed this year through the end of September, according to the CDC, including 14 in Colorado and six in Minnesota. "Disease investigators are working aggressively with health care providers to gather information about the cases", the Minnesota Department of Public Health said in a statement.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., urged the CDC to investigate the national uptick of acute flaccid myelitis infections among children in an October 9 letter to CDC Director Robert Redfield, MD.

AFM "can be a complication following a viral infection, but environmental and genetic factors may also contribute to its development", the Minnesota Department of Health said. "It's incredibly heartbreaking to see this".

Symptoms often include a sudden onset of muscle weakness in the arms or legs and a loss of muscle tone and reflexes, sometimes following a respiratory illness.

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Four-year-old Orville Young is believed to be the first patient in the Minnesota cluster.

Its symptoms are likened to those caused by polio, which was eradicated in the US thanks to the polio vaccine.

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.

In Washington, all of the patients suspected of having AFM are under age 6 and all had symptoms of a respiratory illness in the week before developing symptoms of AFM, the Department of Health reported on Wednesday. For example, in Minnesota, cases of AFM were generally stagnant at about one case per year, but now six children have been confirmed to have AFM in 2018 alone.

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"But it won't tell us what's causing the AFM, which virus, which process, that part we still don't know", Dr. Esper says. Though the AFM cases show a similar seasonality as polio, Osterholm said a difference in the recent AFM pattern is that most severe polio cases were in adults.

The MDH urges parents and children to take basic steps to avoid illnesses, such as frequent hand washing, covering coughs and sneezes, staying home when sick, keeping current with vaccinations, and protecting against mosquito bites.

AFM can occur as a result of a variety of germs including polio virus and non-polio enteroviruses, West Nile virus, and adenoviruses. They can also cause neurologic illness, such as meningitis, encephalitis, and AFM, but these are rare.

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

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Acute flaccid myelitis cases investigated across state