MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Researchers believe that they have identified the origin behind a polio-like illness that has been affecting Minnesota children.

Acute Flaccid Myelitis, or AFM, causes severe muscle weakness and can leave children partly paralyzed. The Minnesota Department of Health says there is typically only one case in the state per year.

In 2018, there were 10.

One of the children diagnosed with AFM was Quinton Hill from Lakeville. WCCO-TV spoke to his father, James Hill, last October after his son was hospitalized for two weeks.

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“Extremely emotional. Obviously, the world seemed like it was crashing down,” Hill said.

Doctor Heidi Moline is a chief resident of pediatrics at the University of Minnesota. She was the lead researcher on a new study into Minnesota children with AFM. She says several viruses can cause the sickness.

“Nothing has been found in the fluid around the brain of these children until now,” Moline said.

That’s where researchers found a possible breakthrough called Enterovirus-D68.

“One of our cases found that virus,” Moline said. “And that really gives us that stronger correlation between AFM an Enterovirus-D68.”

Enteroviruses are common infections leading to coughing and congestion — symptoms Dr. Moline said all the children in the study had about a week before their diagnoses.

While this study gives some insight into AFM, doctors are still trying to figure out exactly how kids are getting it, and why there’s been an increase in cases over the last year.

“We’re still working on this and trying to learn as much as we can to help these families, and us, better understand the disease,” Moline said.

She says viruses are spread mostly through droplets in the air. That’s why hand washing and covering coughs are so important.

Liz Collin

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