Minnesota health officials on the lookout for rare nervous system disorder

Henrietta Strickland
October 9, 2018

Acute flaccid myelitis, known as AFM, affects the body's nervous system - specifically, the spinal cord - and can cause paralysis. The state usually sees just one case of the illness per year, which the Star-Tribune reports has health officials now issuing alerts to doctors statewide.

The Minnesota state health department said all six cases occurred after mid-September, and all six kids have been hospitalized. It can be a complication following a viral infection, but environmental and genetic factors may also be a cause. From August 2014 through August 2018, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention received information on 362 cases of AFM across the United States. Symptoms include sudden muscle weakness in the arms and legs, neck weakness or stiffness, drooping eyelids or a facial droop, and difficulty swallowing or slurred speech.

"It is now hard to interpret trends of the AFM data", the CDC said.

AFM cases first spiked in the United States in August 2014. Despite the increase, the condition is still considered very rare, occurring in fewer than one in a million people in the USA each year.

Long-term effects of the illness.

"You have a normal healthy child over the course of a few hours to weeks develop weakness and in some cases paralysis and in even more rare instances they need to be on a ventilator", explained Manisha Patel, a pediatrician and the CDC's team lead on AFM in 2016, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Avoiding germs could help lower the risk of getting the disease, including washing your hands or staying up-to-date on vaccinations.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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