Acute flaccid myelitis is spreading in Chicago, Pittsburgh, Minnesota, North Texas, Colorado

Stock image of a sick child

According to health officials, since September 20, six pediatric cases of acute flaccid myelitis have been reported to the health department.

Acute flaccid myelitis affects the nervous system and can lead to the weakening of muscles, health official said.

And in 2018 alone, 38 new cases of AFM in 16 states across the country were confirmed by the CDC.

The Minnesota Department of Health has issued an advisory to doctors after six children were diagnosed with a rare disorder that affects the spinal cord.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the condition is not new but a recent influx of cases in 2014 (mostly in California and Colorado) had been linked to the spread of an enterovirus known as EVD68. It seems to wax and wane from one year to the next, the CDC says. AFM can cause a range of types and severity of symptoms, but the commonality among them is a loss of strength or movement in one or more arms or legs.

The disease usually presents itself at the end of a cold and then causes muscle weakness.

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His mother, Elaine Young, told KSTP-TV in a report published Monday that her son had received a diagnosis of AFM.

"The CDC has indicated there might be some increases in cases, and in mid-September we advised health care providers to be vigilant and report to the health department so that we can pass on the information to the CDC", Arnold said. As limbs become weak, a patient might lose the ability to use their arms or legs. But shortly thereafter, odd and frightening symptoms, such as limb weakness, face drooping and difficulty talking or swallowing, set in.

Minnesota typically sees, at most, one case of acute flaccid myelitis a year, so it's concerning that such a large group has presented with the illness at the same time. Ehresmann said, "If you have a child that is having these kinds of symptoms, they should be seen, evaluated, immediately".

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

To prevent illness, the department of health recommends washing your hands frequently, staying up to date on vaccinations and avoiding mosquito bites. There are no specific treatments for AFM, so doctors may decide on certain treatments on a case-by-case basis. The condition can be diagnosed by examining a person's nervous system, taking a magnetic resonance imaging scan and testing the cerebral spinal fluid. Symptoms are similar to complications from other viruses such as the West Nile Virus or the poliovirus.

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