Health officials warn about condition causing muscle weakness

The Minnesota Department of Health is warning physicians to be on the look-out for a rare condition — acute flaccid myelitis — that can arise after an infection and lead to death, paralysis or other long-term health problems. The health department is investigating six cases of AFM that have occurred since mid-September in Minnesota children.

"We've reached out to health care providers to make them aware and to give them information about what to look for, diagnostic tests, the importance of reaching out for consultations in infectious disease, in neurology," said Kris Ehresmann, the State Health Department's infectious disease director.

The condition affects the nervous system. Symptoms include sudden muscle weakness in the arms or legs. Sometimes that follows a respiratory illness. Other symptoms may include neck weakness or stiffness, drooping eyelids or a facial droop and difficulty swallowing or slurred speech.

"It's a serious illness but it is very rare," Ehresmann said. "Looking at the data that we have on the entire United States, it's definitely less than a one in a million situation."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says "AFM or similar neurologic conditions may have a variety of possible causes such as viruses, environmental toxins and genetic disorders."

The CDC says it has seen an increase in cases starting in 2014.

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