Rare illness strikes down U.S. kids

Six Minnesota children diagnosed with rare polio-like disease

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. Other symptoms may include: neck weakness or stiffness, drooping eyelids or a facial droop and difficulty swallowing or slurred speech.

Minnesota officials said they typically see one case of AFM per year.

It's so rare that less than one in a million will get AFM, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. While the CDC says they do not know the cause of most cases of AFM, they do know that Poliovirus and West Nile virus can sometimes lead to AFM.

This condition is not new, according to the CDC, but the agency began seeing an increase in cases four years ago, nearly all involving young children.

The Minnesota Health Department, as well as the CDC will continue to collect information an evaluate the cases.

According to the CDC, there was a notable increase in reported cases of AFM nationwide in 2014, which investigators have linked to an outbreak of a respiratory illness in children caused by a virus known as enterovirus D 68 (EVD68).

Colorado has had 14 AFM cases so far this year, according to Colorado state epidemioloogist Dr. Rachel Herlihy.

CDC has tested many different specimens from AFM patients for a wide range of pathogens (germs) that can cause AFM.

It's believed that the condition can develop following a viral infection, and indeed, the parents of two of the patients say their children started to develop symptoms after getting a cold.

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Three children are being treated for suspected cases of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, ABC News reports.

"There is obviously a lot of concern about it, but it is rare", Griffith said. The first of the six diagnoses was made in mid-September.

The regular cases in Minnesota are of children under age 10.

AFM is not known to be contagious, she said.

Currently, there is no specific treatment for AFM, but doctors might recommend certain interventions, depending on the case. "It's a very devastating situation".

Health officials in Minnesota and at the CDC have recommended general preventive steps.

The agency is also warning parents to be vigilant about protecting kids from mosquito bites because of the possible connection between West Nile virus and AFM.

"We think that in some cases, there might be a virus or some pathogen that you are initially infected with", Kenyon said.

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