Polio-like disease that's paralyzing kids now in Chicago, Pittsburgh

6 Minnesota kids diagnosed with rare, polio-like disease

What causes it is unknown, possibly a virus, but doctors just don't know.

Symptoms of the rare disease include weakness and loss of muscle tone, facial droop or weakness, difficulty moving the eyes and difficulty swallowing and slurred speech. As limbs become weak, a patient might lose the ability to use their arms or legs.

Acute flaccid myelitis has been diagnosed in at least six Minnesota children and health officials admit there are gaps in our understanding of the disease, including its causes and how to treat it.

A rare, polio-like condition in children is on the rise again in the United States, with 38 confirmed cases in 16 states so far this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. Treatment mainly boils down to alleviating those symptoms. 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. Most of the cases nationwide have been in children.

"The CDC has acknowledged that 362 cases of AFM have been reported since 2014, indicating an increasing infection rate", Klobuchar wrote in the letter.

Indeed, there has been an uptick in cases of AFM across the country.

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The condition is still very rare, occurring in fewer than one in a million people in the US each year, the CDC says. A 2-year-old girl was recently diagnosed in the Chicago area, and UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh confirmed that three children are now being treated for AFM at their facility.

In rare cases, the CDC stated, it can cause numbness, tingling and pain in the extremities, problems urinating, paralysis, respiratory failure and death.

The CDC must review case information to confirm the cases under observation in Pittsburgh, a process which could take a few weeks, Scarpino said.

However, a person can catch a virus from someone that leads to AFM. Eventually they narrowed it down to AFM. "That enterovirus is transmittable from person to person, but you can't actually catch AFM from somebody else".

While there is no vaccine for AFM, experts said exposure to the polio virus can trigger the disease.

"You can protect yourself and your children from poliovirus by getting vaccinated", the CDC advises.

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