North Texas Children Among Those With Rare Polio-Like Illness

Quinton Hill and his parents

Quinton Hill and his parents

However, there has been a spike in cases since 2014 and most of those infected have been children.

There have been dozens of cases of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) in the US this year, including three at Cook Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth.

In recent weeks, six cases of the illness, known as acute flaccid myelitis(AFM), have been diagnosed in children in Minnesota - a state the typically sees less than one case of AFM per year, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. The condition can cause the sudden paralysis of limbs by affecting the spinal cord.

According to the CDC, other viruses like poliovirus and West Nile may sometimes lead to AFM. "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", the department said in a statement.

In 2016 there was a cluster of nine cases of AFM in Washington state. This year along, there were 38 people diagnosed with AFM across 16 states.

The virus is actually a common cold virus.

Symptoms can include sudden arm or leg weakness, a loss of reflexes, facial droopiness or weakness, difficulty moving the eyes, drooping eyelids, difficulty swallowing, or slurred speech, the CDC says.

The CDC says that there isn't a specific treatment for AFM, but neurological specialists might recommend physical or occupational therapy to help with arm or leg weakness.

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Separate from these five cases of illness, there has been one other case of AFM in Washington this year and there were three cases identified in 2017, according to the health department.

Do patients make a full recovery? .

Answering that question is complicated said Mark Schleiss, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Minnesota Medical School.

For 7 year-old Quinton Hill of Lakeville, AFM has left him with paralysis in his left arm.

To try and restore function to Maipele, Dr. Mitchel Seruya at Children's Hospital Los Angeles carried out a pioneering nerve transfer surgery. The cells that are killed during the illness don't regenerate and the damage to the cells is irreversible, Schleiss explained.

AFM is not a reportable disease, meaning there may be more cases that were just treated and the child recovered and AFM wasn't diagnosed.

It resembles polio, but unlike polio, there is no vaccine for AFM. But not all who fall ill from an enterovirus will go on to develop the condition, experts say.

"Not because it's happening more it's just that we're recognizing it more", Dr. Esper says.

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