Cases of Rare Illness Found in IL

Rare Polio-Like Illness Strikes 6 Minnesota Children

More and more cases of a rare polio-like illness are being reported across the country, according to news reports. At least six children in the state have been diagnosed and hospitalized with acute flaccid myelitis (or AFM) since September 20. The case reports are from individuals younger than 18 years of age and from northern IL. It attacks the nervous system and can cause paralysis.

The rare condition can be caused by a virus, a genetic disorder and environmental toxins. Symptoms typically begin with a fever or cough, followed by sudden weakness in limbs, drooping of the eyes, slurred speech or difficulty swallowing. While uncommon, AFM is serious and can lead to paralysis or even death.

The CDC has recorded 362 official cases of acute flaccid myelitis in the USA between August 2014 through August 2018.

On Tuesday, the health authorities said three children suspected to have AFM were being treated at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.

Also see | What is acute flaccid myelitis, the mysterious polio-like disorder affecting kids? "In addition to investigating the outbreak, the state health department has issued alerts to health care providers on how to test for the viruses and enhanced guidance to child care centers on infection prevention".

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Melaney Arnold of the Illinois Department of Public Health says health care providers in the state have reported nine cases of AFM.

Minnesota officials have not yet identified a particular virus in the six cases there. The number of AFM cases seems to spike every other year, with 149 reported in 2016, 22 reported in 2015, and 120 in 2014. Polio is the most significant disease caused by an enterovirus.

The health department says there are no specific recommendations for avoiding AFM, but washing your hands, avoiding close contact with sick people, cleaning surfaces with disinfectants, and staying up-to-date on immunizations is recommended. A 2-year-old girl underwent occupational therapy and a nerve transfer operation after she lost the use of her right arm, the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia said last month.

In previous years, cases of AFM in Colorado and elsewhere have been positive for a different enterovirus, EV-D68. Doctors stress that the early signs of AFM should be recognized and treatment should be started as soon as possible to prevent from severity of disease. To date, no pathogen (germ) has been consistently detected in the patients' spinal fluid; a pathogen detected in the spinal fluid would be good evidence to indicate the cause of AFM since this condition affects the spinal cord.

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