An MDH official says so far the CDC has confirmed six cases of AFM in Minnesota.
"Nobody really knows treatment protocols, they don't know prognosis, and they can't really give parents an answer as to where this is coming from", she said. "Children can also have trouble swallowing, trouble with their speech, facial droop, trouble with their eye muscles".
The 10 top local news stories from metro Boston and around New England delivered daily. The disease affects the body's nervous system and can cause paralysis.
AFM appears to target children at around age 4.
"We know this can be frightening for parents", Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the CDC, told the press Wednesday. Another kind of virus is suspected, but it's been found in only some of the cases.
The first cases of AFM coincided with an unusually severe outbreak of a common virus that affects the lungs or gut.
"We thought that because they simultaneously spiked that there was a causal relationship, but when we searched to see if we could identify enterovirus D68 in these individuals, we didn't have any uniform results". "Right now, we know that poliovirus is not the cause of these AFM cases".
They also wanted to raise awareness about the condition so parents can seek medical care if their child develops symptoms, and so physicians can quickly relay reports of the potential illness to the CDC.
"Despite extensive laboratory testing, we have not determined what pathogen or immune response caused the arm or leg weakness and paralysis in most patients", she said. Only one death has been reported, which involved an AFM illness reported in 2017.
There is no treatment specifically for AFM, but affected children can undergo physical and occupational therapy to maximize their strength and adapt to their limitations.
"As a parent myself I understand what it's like to be scared for your child", Messonnier said.
The CDC is actively investigating and monitoring disease activity and recommends taking standard prevention measures such as hand-washing, protecting oneself from mosquito bites and staying up-to-date on vaccinations. Between January and August 2018, there were fewer than five cases reported, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada, which they say is within the "normal range" of the disease.
Rarely, people with AFM can suffer respiratory failure and require ventilator support when their breathing muscles become too weak. Some people with AFM may be unable to pass urine (pee).
More broadly, she noted, "there is a lot we don't know about AFM".
Rooney said, "It seems from most of the evidence so far there may be a connection to viruses".