Looking for clues as to cause of mysterious, polio-like illness

"We're unfortunately going to need more cases to occur."

October 08, 2018 - 5:08 pm

A leading voice on infectious disease investigation says a mysterious illness that's been found in a handful of Minnesota children may be caused by viruses that have adapted to the polio vaccine. The disease, known as acute flaccid myelitis or AFM, affects the central nervous system and can cause partial paralysis, difficulty breathing, and even death.

Late last week, it was announced that six Minnesota children, ages 10 and younger, have been diagnosed with AFM.

Dr. Michael Osterholm is director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, he says there just isn't enough information about AFM yet.

"I hate to say this because it surely doesn't sound that helpful, but unfortunately we're going to need more cases to occur to really understand what is causing it."

Osterholm, who a guest of WCCO's Chad Hartman, says the symptoms are much like polio, and he says it's certainly possible that AFM is caused by a similar virus or viruses.