Published: Thu, October 11, 2018
Medical | By Vicki Mclaughlin

Minnesota grapples with outbreak of acute flaccid myelitis

Minnesota grapples with outbreak of acute flaccid myelitis

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) is investigating six cases of a rare condition called acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) that occurred since mid-September in Minnesota children.

Nationwide, a total of 38 people in 16 states were found by the CDC to have confirmed cases of AFM between January and September this year.

AFM cases first spiked in the United States in August 2014. 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.

"Most of the cases [of AFM] that CDC has learned about have been in children", the CDC writes on its website. "I urge the CDC to provide more information immediately about preventive measures and treatments".

Parents who see AFM symptoms in their children, such as not using an arm, should contact health providers as soon as possible so that diagnostic tests such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and cerebral spinal fluid testing can be done as soon as possible. "While we don't know if it is effective in preventing AFM, washing your hands often with soap and water is one of the best ways to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to other people".

"But it won't tell us what's causing the AFM, which virus, which process, that part we still don't know", Dr. Esper says. "This is a very rare condition", he stresses.

Although acute flaccid myelitis is terrifying, Adalja says parents should not stay awake at night worrying about it. There is no known cause or cure but it may be related to the virus that causes the common cold.

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A study of children diagnosed with AFM in Colorado in 2014 found that a lot of them were better one year later, although most also had residual weakness in their arms and legs.

State medical officials released a statement on the outbreak last week so that doctors can be on the lookout for more cases.

Symptoms may include muscle weakness in the arms, legs and neck. Treatment and therapy can restore lost mobility over time, but a loss of the muscular function to breathe can be deadly.

The most severe symptom of AFM is respiratory failure that can happen when the muscles involved with breathing become weak.

But there's not much else that parents can do to protect their children.

Ehresman says it's unknown what causes A-F-M but people should observe good hygiene and be sure vaccinations are up-to-date.

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