Rare, polio-like condition appears in USA again

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A child is being examined at Oishei Children's Hospital for what their parent suspects is a case of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), a condition affecting the nervous system that causes the body's muscles and reflexes to become weak.

Between August 2014 and August 2018, the CDC received 362 cases of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM).

The number of cases of the illness, also known as AFM, is the highest in the state since 2014, when there were three reported cases, the health authorities said. All of the cases have been reported on the west side of the state with two children in King County and one child in Pierce County, Lewis County and Snohomish County.

The health department says there are no specific recommendations for avoiding AFM, but washing your hands, avoiding close contact with sick people, cleaning surfaces with disinfectants, and staying up-to-date on immunizations is recommended.

State health officials have issued an alert to doctors after six Minnesota children were diagnosed with a rare, polio-like disorder that causes reduced mobility or paralysis in the arms and legs. This virus is transmitted from person to person and it can have severe effects of the brain and spinal cord of the system. AFM or neurologic conditions like it have a variety of causes, including viruses, environmental toxins, and genetic disorders. These symptoms are similar to polio or the West Nile Virus.

The CDC says symptoms of AFM include facial drooping or weakness, difficulty moving the eyes, drooping eyelids or difficulty swallowing or slurred speech.

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"We think that in some cases, there might be a virus or some pathogen that you are initially infected with", Kenyon said. "Cases are all under age 3 years with no underlying medical conditions", the state said in a health alert to doctors last June.

Health investigators are trying to figure out how some Minnesota children contracted a rare illness with polio-like symptoms.

Although we are still learning about AFM and its causes, being up to date on all recommended vaccinations, including poliovirus, is one way to protect yourself and your family from diseases that can cause AFM. But in very rare cases, they can damage the nerves.

AFM affects the spinal cord.

"EV-D68 has been circulating in what looks like an every-other-year pattern", Messacar told NBC News.

Griffith said the cases usually come to light when parents notice acute muscle weakness or paralysis in their child and bring them to a health provider. During 2016, CDC was informed of a few localized clusters in the United States.