Minnesota Children Diagnosed With Rare 'Polio-Like' Illness

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The Minnesota health department issued an alert last Thursday, urging hospitals and clinics to be on the lookout for any symptoms associated with the rare disease. The initial symptoms of AFM in children include facial drooping, limb weakness and trouble in talking and swallowing.

"It starts off with a cold, cough, runny nose, congestion and then before you know it, you have weakness and paralysis of your arms and your legs", Dr. Janette Nesheiwat, a family physician, told ABC News.

"Protecting your children against viruses or protecting ourselves against terrorism and things like that", Tiffany Lanier, another parent, said, "you can't really protect against these things they just happen". The department is also in contact with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to share information. "The patients are now undergoing diagnostic procedures and treatment", the hospital said in a statement to Pittsburgh's Channel 11. "So at that point, where it burst onto the scene, the CDC took initiatives to make this condition reportable".

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Indeed, there has been an uptick in cases of AFM across the country. The recent cases in Minnesota-which were reported from the Twin cities, central Minnesota and northeastern Minnesota-involved children under 10 years of age, all of whom were hospitalized. And at the end of 2104, total numbers of people affected from AFM were 120 in 34 states. There are many unknown factors at this time. These states include California, Florida, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia.

The exact reasons that the condition appears are not known, but neurological conditions have a variety of triggers, such as viruses, environmental toxins and genetic disorders, the CDC said.

Additionally, the CDC has found a possible link between an increase in a respiratory virus and an increase of AFM.

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Health officials say they do not yet know the long-term effects of AFM. "Among the people confirmed with AFM, CDC did not consistently detect EV-D68 in every patient".

Messacar said it's important is for parents to seek immediate medical help if their child shows symptoms of weakness in the muscles of the face or throat.

"You can protect yourself and your children from poliovirus by getting vaccinated", the CDC advises.

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Two-year-old Julia Payne is one of two children being treated for AFM in Chicago. And there are other diseases that mimic the symptoms, such as West Nile virus and Guillain Barre syndrome.

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