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Senators want investigation into polio-like sickness that has struck seven children

Six kids in Minnesota and one in Iowa have been infected since mid-September.

Posted: Oct. 11, 2018 3:01 PM
Updated: Oct. 11, 2018 3:02 PM

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Senators from Iowa and Minnesota are asking for an investigation into a rare polio-like illness that has infected seven children across both states.

DFLers Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith and Republicans Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst sent a letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urging it to look into recent cases of AFM, a nervous system condition that weakens victim’s muscles and causing other symptoms similar to polio. It was announced on October 5 that six Minnesota children had developed the disease since mid-September and a case in Iowa was announced on October 10.

“In recent weeks seven children have been diagnosed with AFM in Minnesota and Iowa, including two children who required treatment in the intensive care unit for respiratory support,” the senators write. “Because the causes of AFM are unknown, we urge the CDC to provide more information immediately about preventive measures and treatments.”

The full text of the letter to CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield is below.

Dear Dr. Redfield,

We are writing to understand what steps the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is taking to investigate the recent increased reports of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM). In recent weeks seven children have been diagnosed with AFM in Minnesota and Iowa, including two children who required treatment in the intensive care unit for respiratory support.

The CDC has acknowledged that 362 cases of AFM have been reported since 2014. AFM causes patients’ muscles to weaken and symptoms include sudden muscle weakness in the arms or legs, neck weakness or stiffness, drooping eyelids or a facial droop, difficulty swallowing or slurred speech. These symptoms are similar to polio or the West Nile Virus. Because the causes of AFM are unknown, we urge the CDC to provide more information immediately about preventive measures and treatments.

We appreciate the CDC’s ongoing work to address AFM. To better understand the challenges and opportunities regarding the federal government’s efforts toward AFM, we request your response to the following questions:

1. What initiatives are underway to accurately track AFM diagnoses?
2. What initiatives are underway to research the causes of and treatments for AFM? Please describe any collaborative efforts between CDC and other relevant government agencies, including the National Institutes of Health.
3. Please describe how is CDC is coordinating with the health departments of affected states and providing timely information to physicians and hospitals who are on the frontline of AFM?

We respectfully request that you provide answers to these questions no later than close of business on October 16, 2018.

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