Rare health threat captures attention in the heartland

At least 65 other illnesses around the USA were being investigated as possible cases.

The Arizona Department of Health Services said in an email to KTAR News 92.3 FM on Wednesday the cases of the polio-like acute flaccid myelitis were not related to the cluster of diagnoses reported in Minnesota.

So far this year, there have been 62 cases of AFM across the nation. But some state health departments have been making public their reported cases.

Experts say the early symptoms of the disease include arm or leg weakness, and loss of muscle tone. Some also experience facial droop, difficulty moving the eyes, drooping eyelids, difficulty swallowing, or slurred speech.

The condition is quite rare, and the CDC says that it only affects 1 out of 1 million people in the United States, and most cases have involved children.

US health officials on Tuesday reported a jump in cases of a rare paralyzing illness in children, and said it seems to be following an every-other-year pattern. Authorities say they are still awaiting confirmed lab results from the CDC.

For 3-year-old Camden Stravers, what his parents thought was the common cold developed into something far worse.

The cause of most of the AFM incidents is unknown, according to the CDC, as are the long-term effects. Doctors at Children's have not seen an AFM patient needing a ventilator this year, but have treated such cases in the past, Benson said.


The number of confirmed cases has been on the rise since late 2014, when there were 120 confirmed cases from August to December in 34 states.

The outlook for patients with AFM can vary from a quick recovery to ongoing paralysis, Messonnier said.

The mysterious polio-like disorder that's striking children around the country is growing, according to an update from federal health officials Tuesday.

"As a parent myself I understand what it's like to be scared for your child", Messonnier said.

It shows distinct abnormalities of the spinal cord gray matter on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

There is no treatment specifically for AFM, but affected children can undergo physical and occupational therapy to maximize their strength and adapt to their limitations.

Asked about the discrepancy between the CDC's report of 22 states versus CNN's report of 30 states with cases, Messonnier said, "the 22 states that we're reporting are the states that have confirmed cases. Most of the people who get sick have had a viral disease and then it comes after that generally but there's a great deal of research that needs to be done on this".

Parents can best protect their children from serious diseases by taking prevention steps, such as washing their hands, staying up to date on recommended vaccines and using insect repellent to prevent mosquito bites, Messonnier said.


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