More 'polio-like' illnesses reported in Pennsylvania, Illinois

Quinton Hill and his parents

Quinton Hill and his parents

It weakens a person's muscles and nerves, according to the CDC.

- A mysterious neurological condition called acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) has made headlines in recent weeks, with officials looking into several suspected cases in Minnesota, Colorado and here in Chicago.

The six Minnesota children are all 10 and younger and are in the Twin Cities, central and northeastern Minnesota.

Usually, the state sees zero to one AFM cases a year.

The CDC says there have been a total of 362 cases nationally between August 2014 and August 2018, with 38 confirmed cases so far this year. Symptoms can include sudden limb weakness, loss of muscle tone and reflexes, facial and eyelid drooping, facial weakness, difficulty moving the eyes, swallowing difficulty or slurred speech, according to the CDC.

CDC specialists will make the final determination as to whether the cases in Washington are AFM, state health officials said.

Dr. Elizabeth Meade, chief of pediatrics at Swedish Pediatrics, says AFM is more common in kids and is especially associated with viruses.

The disease, health officials say, is hard to positively confirm by anyone other than a few specially trained neurologists. The patients are now undergoing diagnostic procedures and treatments. Doctors say the sickness impacts the spinal cord and carries symptoms similar to polio.

The outcomes for those afflicted are varied, she said, with some patients recovering fully and others dealing with some level of paralysis for the rest of their lives.

Most of the eight cases of the illness reported in Texas are in the northern part of the state.

The agency said it hasn't confirmed the cause for the majority of the cases, which primarily occur in children.

Because of AFM's possible roots in polio, doctors and medical health professionals are urging parents to stay up-to-date on their children's vaccinations.

"What we do know is that AFM can be caused by lots of different things, and one of those things is a viral infection", said Dr. Elizabeth Meade, Chief of Pediatrics at Swedish. After the 120 cases in 2014, there were 22 in 2015, 149 in 2016, and 33 previous year, according to the agency. Three cases were reported in 2017, and one other case was reported in Washington since the beginning of 2018. They recommend as prevention regular hand-washing and avoiding mosquito bites.

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