Cases of acute flaccid myelitis reported

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.

AFM is a rare but serious condition that affects the nervous system, causing muscles to weaken. It can be a complication following a viral infection, but environmental and genetic factors may also contribute to its development. AFM symptoms include sudden muscle weakness in the arms or legs, sometimes following a respiratory illness. Other symptoms may include: neck weakness or stiffness, drooping eyelids or a facial droop, and difficulty swallowing or slurred speech.

MDH disease investigators are working aggressively with health care providers to gather information about the cases. The department is also in contact with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to share information.

For reasons not fully understood, AFM affects mainly children. All recent Minnesota cases have been in children under 10 years old and all were hospitalized. Cases have been reported from the Twin Cities, central Minnesota and northeastern Minnesota.

Since AFM can develop as a result of a viral infection, MDH recommends parents and children take basic steps to avoid infections and stay healthy:

• Wash your hands frequently
to limit your exposure to

germs,
• Cover your cough or
sneeze,
• Stay home if you are sick,
• Stay up to date on vaccinations, and
• Protect yourself and children from mosquito bites if
you’re spending time outside.

If parents see potential symptoms of AFM in their child, (for example, if he or she is not using an arm) they should contact their health care provider as soon as possible. AFM can be diagnosed by examining a person’s nervous system, taking an MRI scan and testing the cerebral spinal fluid. It is important that tests are done as soon as possible after someone develops symptoms.

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