6 cases of rare polio-like illness confirmed in Minnesota

Six cases of a rare illness with polio-like symptoms have been confirmed in Minnesota, according to the Department of Health. It's the most cases of acute flaccid myelitis the state has ever seen.

Since September 20, six children under the age of 10 have been diagnosed with acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) in Minnesota, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. The cases are not coming from one specific area, with cases reported in the metro, central and north eastern Minnesota. Officials say they are unsure if the six cases are related.

Usually, the state sees zero to one AFM cases a year. There were three cases reported in 2014, a year AFM was on the rise nationwide.

Seven-year-old Quinton Hill of Lakeville started showing signs of cold-like symptoms on Sept. 9, but five days later his parents realized he had more than just the common cold. 

“We didn’t think anything was wrong until all of a sudden his neck froze up and he couldn’t move his left arm," said James Hill, Quinton's father.

It took days and many tests later to finally get the diagnosis of AFM. Quinton was in the hospital for two weeks. James says he turned to social media to connect with other families impacted by the rare illness.

“There are kids in the hospital now that have lost multiple limbs or can’t move from the neck down," said James.

Kris Ehresmann, the director of infectious disease with the Minnesota Department of Health, says they believe AFM affects the spinal cord and grey matter, causing muscle weakness, which can lead to paralysis. The cause for the rare condition, however, remains unclear.

“For some diseases, like measles, we know that the cause is the measles virus," said Kris Ehresmann, the director of infectious disease with the Minnesota Department of Health. "In this case, there have been several different families of viruses that have been associated with this illness, as well as some situations where you can’t tie it to a virus ... So there’s a lot of unknown here.”

Ehresmann says there is less than one in a million chance of getting AFM, but she says parents should make sure their children's vaccinations are up to date and take precautions such as washing hands and covering your cough.

“We don’t have simple answers for this," said Ehresmann. "It’s a hard situation and we feel for this parents and so we’re trying to do the best we can.”

As for Quinton, he's now out of the hospital. His left arm is paralyzed, but he still has movement in his fingers. 

“A small percentage of kids report that they’re able to get function back," said James. "So we’re just hoping for the best and Quentin is super resilient and so if anybody is going to get it back it’s going to be him.”