Unusual number of Minnesota children diagnosed with rare, paralyzing disorder

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A rare condition known for its polio-like effects has been diagnosed in six Minnesota children since mid-September.

This disease affects the nervous system, specifically the area of a person's spinal cord called gray matter, according to the CDC.

"In very rare cases, it is possible that the process in the body that triggers AFM may also trigger other serious neurologic complications that could lead to death", according to the CDC.

"It is important to know that even though this is a rare condition and is being reported as a mystery illness, we really do understand much more about the causes of this disease", he said. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said there have been a confirmed 38 cases across 16 states in 2018 so far. "In addition to investigating the outbreak, the state health department has issued alerts to health care providers on how to test for the viruses and enhanced guidance to child care centers on infection prevention".

AFM is not a reportable disease, meaning there may be more cases that were just treated and the child recovered and AFM wasn't diagnosed.

All the children showed systems of a respiratory illness the week before developing symptoms of AFM.

The Minnesota Department of Health said that the state had three cases of AFM in 2014.

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For example, a neurologist may recommend physical or occupational therapy to help with arm or leg weakness. Now that doctors are looking for it, expect more cases to be diagnosed.

Symptoms can include sudden weakness in limbs, loss of reflexes, unability to control facial expressions, difficulty moving the eyes, drooping eyelids, difficulty swallowing, or slurred speech, the CDC reports. Its origins are a mystery, but officials say a virus can cause some cases. The average for the state is less than one case a year.

Akron Children's is waiting on lab results of two cases that seem to fit the "clinical picture" of AFM.

Investigators are still collecting data on the two unconfirmed cases in Minnesota, which involved children under the age of 10 who displayed symptoms in the summer, Griffith said.

The exact reasons that the condition appears are not known, but neurological conditions have a variety of triggers, such as viruses, environmental toxins and genetic disorders, the CDC said.

Since the CDC began tracking AFM cases four years ago, at least 362 cases have been logged nationwide, according to the CDC's website.

Dr. Tina Tan, who specializes in infectious diseases and has attended to Julia, said the best advice for parents is to be vigilant and take note of concerning symptoms. The CDC3 does not advocate the use of steroids, IVig, or plasma exchange in AFM, but individuals with AFM or caregivers of children with AFM should discuss treatment recommendations with their physician.