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11 October 2018, 04:12 | Melissa Porter
Six kids in Minnesota have been diagnosed with acute flaccid myelitis
That suggests 2018 could be another year in which more cases are reported, said Dr. Kevin Messacar, an infectious disease physician at Children's Hospital Colorado.
Little is known about Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), a rare disease that affects the nervous system. Symptoms include onset leg or arm weakness, loss of muscle tone and reflexes, facial droop, difficulty moving the eyes, drooping eyelids or difficulty swallowing or slurred speech. It is a neurological condition that impacts the brain and the spinal cord, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no cure for AFM. AFM or neurologic conditions like it have a variety of causes such as viruses, environmental toxins, and genetic disorders.
That figure does not include the six new cases in Minnesota and the possible two other cases there, the CDC said in an emailed response to questions.
Health officials say they do not yet know the long-term effects of AFM.
On Tuesday, the health authorities said three children suspected to have AFM were being treated at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. Polio once caused regular epidemics until vaccination wiped it out across most of the world.
Minnesota typically sees, at most, one case of acute flaccid myelitis a year, so it's concerning that such a large group has presented with the illness at the same time. It was first identified in 2014, when 120 children were diagnosed.
The regular cases in Minnesota are of children under age 10. While there is no specific treatment for AFM, doctors may recommend certain interventions on a case-by-case basis. He said, "If one arm isn't working correctly, or one leg, or one side of the body, or if you notice an asymmetry in the face where one side looks very different than the other side, that child should be evaluated".
Health experts say the disease can lead to paralysis and even death.
Health officials in Minnesota and at the CDC have recommended general preventive steps. Some cases have been linked to poliovirus (polio) and West Nile virus, according to the CDC.
The Youngs say doctors ran several tests, but only got closer to a diagnosis after a second MRI.
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