"In very rare cases, it is possible that the process in the body that triggers AFM may also trigger other serious neurologic complications that could lead to death", according to the CDC.
Nationwide, a total of 38 people in 16 states were found by the CDC to have confirmed cases of AFM between January and September this year.
"What we do know is that AFM can be caused by lots of different things, and one of those things is a viral infection", Dr. Meade said. "The department is also in contact with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to share information".
A study of children diagnosed with AFM in Colorado in 2014 found that majority were better one year later, although most also had residual weakness in their arms and legs.
Although we are still learning about AFM and its causes, being up to date on all recommended vaccinations, including poliovirus, is one way to protect yourself and your family from diseases that can cause AFM. It has received increased attention in recent weeks after health officials in Minnesota and Colorado saw spikes in reported cases, Illinois Public Health Department spokeswoman Melaney Arnold said. In particular, the condition can cause weakness in the arms and legs along with loss of muscle tone and problems with reflexes.
The above graphic shows how AFM affects the nervous system. CDC
All of the Minnesota cases have been in children younger than 10 and all were hospitalized. Symptoms include limb weakness, facial drooping and trouble swallowing or talking. Because the virus was present in many early confirmed cases of AFM, the CDC believes it to be a primary cause of the condition.
At Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare in St. Paul, physicians are treating some of the six Minnesota cases.
Finally, although it's unknown whether it's effective in preventing AFM, the CDC notes washing your hands often with soap and water is one of the best ways to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others.
Health investigators are trying to figure out how some Minnesota children contracted a rare illness with polio-like symptoms. While there is no specific treatment for AFM, doctors may recommend certain interventions on a case-by-case basis.
Since August 2014, when the CDC began tracking the illness more closely, the agency has reported 362 cases.
"We don't yet have any effective treatment for the virus or for the condition", Messacar said. And there are other diseases that mimic the symptoms, such as West Nile virus and Guillain Barre syndrome.
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