Polio-like disease on the rise in Minnesota

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One case was reported earlier this year.

What can cause the illness?

Acute flaccid myelitis has been diagnosed in at least six Minnesota children and health officials admit there are gaps in our understanding of the disease, including its causes and how to treat it.

The mysterious illness that's paralyzing children is spreading across the United States, with cases popping up in both Chicago and Pittsburgh after initial reports from Minnesota.

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"The increase in AFM cases in 2014 coincided with a national outbreak of severe respiratory illness among people caused by enterovirus D68 (EV-D68)", the CDC notes on its website.

The CDC says it got information on 362 cases of the illness in the US from August 2014 through August 2018.

Symptoms include drooping face and eyelids, difficulty moving eyes and swallowing, and slurred speech. Some cases have been linked to poliovirus (polio) and West Nile virus, according to the CDC.

Health departments in several states, including Colorado, Minnesota, Illinois and Washington are investigating confirmed cases in their areas, many of which are not included in the CDC's totals because they were confirmed after September 30th.

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The disease, health officials say, is hard to positively confirm by anyone other than a few specially trained neurologists. The cause of most of the AFM cases is unknown. It says that most patients afflicted by the disease are children and that scientists have not yet determined a single pathogen detected in patients' spinal fluid that causes AFM.

The Colorado Department of Health says it has 14 confirmed cases this year, all of whom are children who needed hospitalization.

"Isolation protocols and infection control procedures are in place, and we are working with the CDC and the Allegheny County Health Department to further monitor and evaluate the patient conditions", Kunicky said.

"It can extremely change lifestyles for these families", said Dr. Fernando Acosta, a neurologist at Cook Children's.

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Nine cases were reported in Washington in 2016. After the 120 cases in 2014, there were 22 in 2015, 149 in 2016, and 33 past year, according to the agency. However, it recommends practicing disease prevention measures, including staying up-to-date on vaccines and protecting yourself from mosquito bites.