What is acute flaccid myelitis, the mysterious polio-like disorder affecting kids?

Stock image of a sick child

Acute flaccid myelitis, also known as AFM, affects the body's nervous system, targeting the spinal cord, and can result in paralysis.

Shannon Barbare, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, told Fox News Tuesday there have been 14 confirmed cases of AFM in the state so far this year - though it's unclear if all of those cases were included in the CDC's latest report.

Six children in Minnesota have been detected with an exceptional "polio-like" bug since mid-September, state health officials said, all the latest cases were in kids below 10. Doctors found a clue to what was wrong from an MRI scan. That was the case with Orville Young, a 4-year-old boy in Minnesota who lost mobility in his right arm and had difficulty sitting up and moving his legs.

Quinton Hill is one of six cases of AFM in Minnesota reported since September 20.

Between August 2014 and August 2018, the CDC received 362 cases of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM). It can be a complication following a viral infection, but environmental and genetic factors may also be a cause. "Because the causes of AFM are unknown, we urge the CDC to provide more information immediately about preventive measures and treatments". "Less than one in a million people in the United States get AFM each year", the CDC says.

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All of the patients are children who have needed to be hospitalized, the department said, noting "nearly all have fully recovered". Symptoms typically begin with a fever or cough, followed by sudden weakness in limbs, drooping of the eyes, slurred speech or difficulty swallowing.

"The CDC will make the final determination on diagnoses and numbers are subject to change", the statement said. Since then, however, the Minnesota Department of Health said it has seen an AFM case about once a year.

In 2014, doctors believed the cases might be linked to infection with enterovirus 68, a respiratory virus, according to a New York Times article.

How is it prevented and treated?

AFM is a serious, but uncommon condition.

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The children are from King, Pierce, Snohomish and Lewis counties, the health department said.

Like many children, Julia Payne, the toddler at Lurie, started to show signs of weakness and problems breathing on her own after a prolonged cold, said Dr. Marcelo Malakooti, the medical director for Lurie's pediatric intensive care unit.

Health officials are warning parents to be on the lookout for symptoms. We have not confirmed the cause for the majority of these cases.

The CDC recommends getting children vaccinated against the poliovirus, as well as protecting against bites from mosquitos (which carry the West Nile virus).

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