The Minnesota cases have been diagnosed since September 20, according to the Minnesota Department of Health, which says officials are working "aggressively" with health care providers to try to gather more information about the cases. Acute flaccid myelitis, also known as AFM, affects the body's nervous system, targeting the spinal cord, and can result in paralysis.
AFM is a serious, but uncommon condition.
From August 2014 through August 2018, CDC has received information on a total of 362 cases of Acute Flaccid Myelitis (AFM) across the U.S.; most of the cases continue to occur in children. AFM can cause a range of types and severity of symptoms, but the commonality among them is a loss of strength or movement in one or more arms or legs.
The Centers for Disease and Control said AFM has afflicted only 362 people nationwide in the past four years.
"At this point there isn't evidence that would point to a single source of illness among these cases", said Dr. Scott Lindquist, an infectious-disease epidemiologist at the Department of Health.
During the 2014 national spike in AFM cases, Minnesota had three cases, and since then has averaged about one case per year.
For reasons unknown, the disease typically develops only in children.
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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.
Symptoms of AFM are comparable to polio, including numbness of the limbs, facial drooping and slurred speech.
He emphasized that early work-up is helpful for finding the underlying cause of the AFM cases and added that most children eventually recover from the damage from the spinal cord inflammation. And at the end of 2104, total numbers of people affected from AFM were 120 in 34 states.
At least six children under age 10 are facing paralysis, long-term health problems are even death after contracting a "rare but potentially severe condition", according to the Minnesota Department of Health.
We appreciate the CDC's ongoing work to address AFM. In recent weeks seven children have been diagnosed with AFM in Minnesota and Iowa, including two children who required treatment in the intensive care unit for respiratory support. This is very alarming as it is usually seen in only one case per year in that state.
There are several ways people can contract AFM, including exposure to toxins in the air, genetic factors or through viruses such as poliovirus, non-polio enteroviruses, adenoviruses, West Nile virus, Japanese encephalitis virus and Saint Louis encephalitis virus, according to the agency.