(WXYZ) – A rare illness that can cause paralysis has been diagnosed in six children since mid-September in Minnesota.
Health Investigators are trying to figure out how the children contracted the potentially deadly Acute flaccid myelitis or AFM.
What makes AFM so scary is that it affects the nervous system, particularly the spinal cord. And children can suddenly become weak in their legs or arms because their muscles and reflexes are not working normally.
They can also experience trouble swallowing, facial drooping, neck weakness, and slurred speech.
What causes Acute Flaccid Myelitis?
Despite all the extensive lab testing for AFM, we still don’t know the exact cause of AFM, or why it affects mostly children. Environmental toxins, genetic disorders and viral infections like poliovirus and West Nile are all suspected possible causes.
Unfortunately, there is no specific treatment for AFM, and we don’t know the long-term prognosis for those who have it.
Is AFM contagious?
AFM is not spread from person to person.
However, some of the germs that may potentially lead to AFM are contagious.
Now it does seem alarming that Minnesota has six recently diagnosed cases. But let me point out that this illness is so rare, the CDC says less than 1 in a million people will get this serious condition.
There is no vaccine for AFM. But the CDC does have a few prevention steps for you and your loved ones.
To help avoid the West Nile virus, use bug repellent to keep mosquitoes from biting. To help avoid poliovirus be sure to get the polio vaccination. And wash hands often with soap and water as it’s a great way to avoid picking up germs.
Don’t forget to cover your mouth when coughing, preferably with your elbow. And if you get sick, please stay home to avoid spreading viral infections to others.
- Do not share cups, glasses, straws, or eating utensils. This can help reduce viral infections that might lead to AFM.
- In addition to using insect repellent, wearing long sleeves and long pants can also help prevent mosquito bites.
- Clean surfaces touched by anyone that is sick. Use a disinfectant that kills germs. Learn more about preventing infectious diseases here.
- Know the symptoms of AFM and get medical help immediately if suspected. Interventions will be recommended on a case-by-case basis.
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Data pulled from WXYZ