Rare illness strikes down United States kids

Alicia Farmer
October 11, 2018

AFM's cause is still unknown but it usually develops from a viral infection and affects the central nervous system, specifically the spinal cord.

At least six children in the state have been diagnosed and hospitalized with acute flaccid myelitis (or AFM) since September 20.

While fewer than 1 in a million people in the USA are diagnosed with AFM each year, the CDC is concerned about the recurrent outbreaks, especially given the mysterious nature of the illness. She also requested the agency answer seven questions about its response efforts by October 16 and conduct a member-level briefing for senators seeking more information on the issue.

AFM affects less than one in a million children. "I urge the CDC to provide more information immediately about preventive measures and treatments".

The disorder is called acute flaccid myelitis - or AFM, for short - and there has been an increase in cases across the US since 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This disease, AFM is not exactly like polio as it has no vaccination.

In 2016, there was a cluster of nine cases of AFM in Washington and there were three in 2017, according to the health department.

Health officials said that a single cause of AFM has not been found and often no cause is found. AFM cases first peaked in the United States in August 2014, 120 people had been identified in 34 states by the end of that year.

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The spike in cases seems to happen every other year and always this time of year when kids head back to school.

The disease is known to hit the nervous system by traveling through the spinal cord.

The Centers for Disease and Control said AFM has afflicted only 362 people nationwide in the past four years.

The other viruses such as EV-D68 and EV-A71 cause much milder disease or no symptoms at all.

State medical officials released a statement on the outbreak last week so that doctors can be on the lookout for more cases. Symptoms include weakness, loss of muscle tone, facial droop, difficulty swallowing, slurred speech and in severe cases, paralysis.

Quinton Hill is one of six cases of AFM in Minnesota reported since September 20. As limbs become weak, a patient might lose the ability to use their arms or legs.

The CDC recommends getting children vaccinated against the poliovirus, as well as protecting against bites from mosquitos (which carry the West Nile virus).

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