Six Cases of Rare, Polio-like Illness in MN Children

Six Cases of Rare, Polio-like Illness in MN Children

Six Cases of Rare, Polio-like Illness in MN Children

Health officials in Minnesota and Colorado are among the states investigating acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) cases in children, raising concerns about another possible uptick in the rare condition, similar to steep rises seen in 2014 and 2016. The initial symptoms of AFM in children include facial drooping, limb weakness and trouble in talking and swallowing.

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. Environmental toxins and genetic disorders are also potentially involved in the development of the disease.

AFM has been around for a while, but the CDC notes that there have been increases in the number of cases reported starting in 2014. "Less than one in a million people in the United States get AFM each year", the CDC says.

As of October 5, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had reported 38 cases of the disease in 16 states this year.

"The CDC will make the final determination on diagnoses and numbers are subject to change", the statement said. The CDC also advises washing hands with soap and water and covering your cough or sneeze, standard practices to reduce the spread of germs.

The six Minnesota children are all 10 and younger and are in the Twin Cities, central and northeastern Minnesota. These cases coincided with a severe respiratory illness caused by enterovirus D68.


AFM can be hard to diagnose because it shares numerous same symptoms as other neurologic diseases, like transverse myelitis and Guillain-Barre syndrome. In particular, the condition can cause weakness in the arms and legs along with loss of muscle tone and problems with reflexes. Acute flaccid myelitis is tricky to diagnose and may require tests of spinal fluid, as well as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Separate from these five cases of illness, there has been one other case of AFM in Washington this year and there were three cases identified in 2017, according to the health department. The average for the state is less than one case a year. "It's a very devastating situation" for the children and their families, she said.

We appreciate the CDC's ongoing work to address AFM.

There is no single treatment for AFM, but a neurologist may recommend therapy.

In Chicago, doctors say Julia Payne had an enterovirus that caused the AFM.

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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