Minnesota health officials on the lookout for rare nervous system disorder

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Enteroviruses most commonly cause mild illness.

While there are a variety of possible causes for the disease, there is no known cure.

What is acute flaccid myelitis?

Its symptoms are likened to those caused by polio, which was eradicated in the US thanks to the polio vaccine.

Symptoms to watch out for include sudden muscle weakness, drooping facial features, neck stiffness and difficulty swallowing or speaking.

Parents usually notice the child's loss of the use of an arm or a leg. This year, there was one case of AFM before the current batch of five affected children.

He had just recovered from a cold and fever in July.

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University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital evaluated and cared for two patients with suspected AFM. "The results come back that he had an abnormality through his entire spinal cord", said Elaine. The department is also in contact with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to share information. There are no known treatments, and 38 cases have been confirmed in the USA this year. The disease was most prevalent in 2014 when 120 cases, most in Colorado and California, were reported.

Nevertheless, the CDC estimates that less than one in a million people in the United States will get AFM every year. It can be a complication following a viral infection, but environmental and genetic factors may also contribute to its development.

Acute flaccid myelitis appears to be caused most often by viruses, especially one called EV-D68.

"At this point, there isn't evidence that would point to a single source of illness among these cases", said Dr. Scott Lindquist, state infectious disease epidemiologist at the Department of Health.

"Most of the cases [of AFM] that CDC has learned about have been in children", the CDC writes on its website.

Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) is a rare condition.

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. The first of the six diagnoses was made in mid-September. "And then there is lag time until the spinal inflammation".

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All of the Minnesota cases have been in children younger than 10 and all were hospitalized.

AFM is not known to be contagious, she said.

If the condition worsens, symptoms can lead to paralysis or death.

Health officials are warning parents to be on the lookout for symptoms.

The CDC recommends getting children vaccinated against the poliovirus, as well as protecting against bites from mosquitos (which carry the West Nile virus).

"We don't yet have any effective treatment for the virus or for the condition", Messacar said. "Since we don't see a clear association with all of our cases with a particular virus or pathogen, the best we can do right now is to make sure you are doing everything you can".

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