It attacks the nervous system and can cause paralysis. AFM or neurologic conditions like it have a variety of causes such as viruses, environmental toxins, and genetic disorders. Just 362 cases were reported across the country between August 2014 and August 2018. "It's incredibly heartbreaking to see this".
The cause of AFM is still unknown, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
A study of children diagnosed with AFM in Colorado in 2014 found that a lot of them were better one year later, although most also had residual weakness in their arms and legs. But shortly thereafter, odd and frightening symptoms, such as limb weakness, face drooping and difficulty talking or swallowing, set in. The CDC says little is known about what causes the disease.
"This includes cases of meningitis, encephalitis, and acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) as well as children experiencing myoclonus (abnormal muscle jerking) and ataxia (loss of balance)".
So far in 2018, the CDC has confirmed 38 cases of AFM in 16 states, with six cases reported in Minnesota.
Minnesota officials have not yet identified a particular virus in the six cases there. 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. AFM cases have been reported from across the state, including the Twin Cities, central Minnesota, and northeastern Minnesota.
Additionally, the CDC has found a possible link between an increase in a respiratory virus and an increase of AFM.
The CDC does not yet know the long-term effects of AFM Some patients have recovered quickly, while others continue to have paralysis, it says. Staying update on recommended immunizations is also important to avoiding vaccine preventable illnesses.
Kris Ehresmann with the state Health Department advises parents, "Any kind of acute muscle weakness in their kids, in arms and legs, that obviously doesn't have anything to do with spraining your ankle at soccer, that definitely they should seek medical attention".
"There is no specific treatment for AFM, but a doctor who specializes in treating brain and spinal cord illnesses (neurologist) may recommend certain interventions on a case-by-case basis", the CDC said. There is no known cause or cure but it may be related to the virus that causes the common cold.
After several tests, doctors were only able to find a diagnosis after a second MRI, finding abnormality throughout his entire spinal cord.