According to a story from CNN, a rare disease called acute flaccid myelitis has been cropping up in Minnesota lately, and six kids have been diagnosed with the illness since the middle of September. This disease causes issues with the spinal cord and can cause paralysis. The symptoms have been compared to the more widely known disease polio. However, this disease can’t be prevented with a simple vaccine like polio can, or at least not yet.
About Acute Flaccid Myelitis
Acute flaccid myelitis is a condition that has only recently become known to science, and there is still a lot about it that remains unknown. This neurological disease can cause sudden symptoms, the most distinct of which is localized paralysis or weakness in the limbs. Scientists believe that this disease is most likely caused by infection of enterovirus 68. This virus is a close relative of poliovirus, which is the cause of polio and further suggests similarities between these illnesses. Symptoms of acute flaccid myelitis include acute limb paralysis, pain in the neck, limbs, or back, gray matter lesions (on MRI), difficulty breathing, and increased white blood cell count (suggesting inflammation or infection). There are currently no known treatments for acute flaccid myelitis; immune system altering drugs as well as other medications and procedures have been attempted, but none have seemed to have any effect. To learn more about acute flaccid myelitis, click here.
A Mysterious Appearance
It is unusual for Minnesota to see any cases of the disease at all during a given year, and it is not clear why a group of cases has appeared out of the blue. All patients are less than ten years old. One of the first times that acute flaccid myelitis garnered attention was in August 2014. That year, several hundred children were affected by respiratory illness that was linked to infection from enterovirus 68, and at the same time there were 120 confirmed cases of acute flaccid myelitis. This is one piece of evidence that appears to indicate this virus as the cause.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regard acute flaccid myelitis as a contagious disease that can be transmitted through feces, saliva, and phelgm. The agency recommends maintaining strict hygiene and avoiding people that are known to be infected.