Six children in Minnesota diagnosed with rare ‘polio-like’ disease

Stock image of a sick child

Health officials in Minnesota are telling doctors to be on the lookout for a rare disorder called acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM.

Six children have been diagnosed with a rare "polio-like" disease since mid-September, health officials said.

On average, the Minnesota Department of Health sees only about one case per year.

Minnesota saw three cases that year and typically sees less than one case per year.

According to the CDC, the disease initially starts as a common cold, but later partially paralyzes children. It can arise from a viral infection but environmental and genetic factors could also cause the illness to develop. 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. "Collecting information about suspected AFM cases is relatively new, and it is voluntary for most states to send this information to CDC". Despite the increase, the condition is still considered very rare, occurring in fewer than one in a million people in the US each year.

This coincided with a national outbreak of enterovirus D68 (EV-D68), leading experts to believe acute flaccid myelitis is associated with the respiratory illness.

Up through September of this year, 38 cases of AFM have been confirmed in 16 states, according to the CDC, and 362 people have contracted AFM since August 2014.

The CDC says it's important to practice disease prevention steps: staying up to date on vaccines, washing hands and preventing mosquito bites.

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