6 cases of rare 'polio-like' illness diagnosed in Minnesota children

Rare illness leaves 3-year-old boy paralyzed

Minnesota: Acute flaccid myelitis cases investigated across state

Minnesota health officials have reported 6 children have been diagnosed [since September] with a rare disease known as Acute flaccid myelitis or AFM.

Orville was diagnosed with acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM, and spent six days in the hospital.

According to health officials, since September 20, six pediatric cases of acute flaccid myelitis have been reported to the health department.

Kris Ehresmann with the Minnesota Department of Health told CBS News that the chances of a child getting AFM are "about one in a million". "It's incredibly heartbreaking to see this".

The Star Tribune reports the polio-like disease came to the attention of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2014 after clusters were discovered in Colorado and California.

AFM cases first spiked in the United States in August 2014. 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. This is very alarming as it is usually seen in only one case per year in that state. Polio once caused regular epidemics until vaccination wiped it out across most of the world. AFM or neurologic conditions like it have a variety of causes such as viruses, environmental toxins, and genetic disorders.

The regular cases in Minnesota are of children under age 10. It is believed that AFM can be contagious, and for this reason, isolation protocols are in place for patients who are confirmed to have the neurological illness. The Minnesota cases have been diagnosed since September 20, according to the Minnesota Department of Health, which says officials are working "aggressively" with health care providers to try to gather more information about the cases. A doctor can also do an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) to look at a patient's brain and spinal cord, do lab tests on the cerebrospinal fluid (the fluid around the brain and spinal cord) and may check nerve conduction (impulse sent along a nerve fiber) and response. You can reduce the chance of mosquito bites by using insect repellent and keeping kids indoors during times when mosquitos are prevalent.

Because AFM can develop from a viral infection, the Minnesota health department recommends that families follow "basic steps" to avoid those infections, including by washing hands, staying home if you're sick and covering your coughs and sneezes.

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