Multiple cases of rare polio-like illness under investigation in North Carolina

MDH: 7th Minnesota case of AFM 'under review' by CDC

Rare health threat captures attention in the heartland

Physicians first began noticing an increase in AFM patients in 2014, with roughly 120 confirmed cases.

The child's mother, Reba Faircloth, told ABC affiliate WFTV in Orlando that her daughter started showing symptoms for some sort of illness on Thursday, and has been in the Intensive Care Unit since Sunday.

It's a rare disease that can cause muscle weakness, partial paralysis, and general polio-like symptoms in children.

Each year since then, usually in August or September, the CDC has logged a spike in the illness. While she can't predict how 2018 will turn out, Messonnier said that the number of cases so far this year seems to be in line with the previous two waves in 2014 and 2016.

The CDC urges parents to be aware of this illness and to seek medical care right away if family members develop sudden weakness or loss of muscle tone in the arms or legs.

Messonnier called it a "pretty dramatic disease".

While the virus has similarities with polio, Messonnier stressed that polio was not the cause of the disease.

Benjamin Greenberg, a neurologist who has treated children with AFM at the University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas, said AFM is "exquisitely rare". "Ninety percent of the cases are in those less of 18 years in age", Messionnier told NBC News.

"We know this can be frightening for parents", Messonnier said.

And while the causes of acute flaccid myelitis are not known, it is important to practice disease prevention steps, such as staying up-to-date on vaccines and washing your hands.

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So far the disease has claimed one life in the U.S.

Mitchel Seruya, a surgeon at Children's Hospital Los Angeles, says when he has operated on children with AFM, he has been amazed by how unresponsive their affected nerves are. There have been cases each year since, but the numbers have been higher on alternate years.

"Most of the cases continue to occur in children", according to its website.

But both Glatter and Ehresmann were quick to reiterate that AFM is very rare.

Kelly Tunan's 5-year-old son was diagnosed with the disease in 2015 and had to undergo several surgeries on his right leg and right foot. The illness has caused at least one death. Ehresmann said Minnesota public health officials have linked their outbreak a virus, but haven't determined the exact name. "Unfortunately, there are no real treatments that have been proven to work, but early rehabilitation has been shown to help".

She added that confirmation of each case requires a review of MRI images and symptoms, "so there is going to be a bit of a lag as we confirm those things". Similar waves of the same illness occurred in 2014 and 2016. That pattern appears to be repeating this year.

Follow-up with patients from the 2014 and 2016 waves has shown that most children do not recover from acute flaccid myelitis, for which there now is no cure. It's unclear from mouse studies whether AFM symptoms will return in afflicted individuals, Tyler says. To date, 62 of those cases, from 22 states, have been confirmed; investigations of the others are ongoing.

Most kids who contract an enterovirus only suffer an upper-respiratory infection, Pardo-Villamizar and Dominguez said. When Lydia was not strong enough to hold an ear of corn in her left hand, Pilarowski got anxious. "So we can provide supportive therapy and make sure that there are no complications". Some patients have tested positive for enterovirus or rhinovirus.

There is no specific treatment for the virus. "Let's not act like this is a surprise if this comes back in 2020, but let's be more prepared".

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