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Children’s Mercy Hospital treating patients with rare polio-like illness

16 October 2018

The Washington State Department of Health and four local public health agencies are investigating reports of five children hospitalized for sudden onset of paralysis of one or more limbs. Medical experts have said AFM itself is not believed to be contagious, but the causes of it could be.

"There are now two possible cases reported in 2018 that are under investigation", Brittany Fowler, a spokesperson for the Maryland health department, told NBC News.

The most severe symptom of AFM is respiratory failure that can happen when the muscles involved with breathing become weak.

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AFM is a condition that affects the nervous system and causes muscle weakness, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

At this point there isnt evidence that would point to a single source of illness among these cases, said Dr. Scott Lindquist, state infectious disease epidemiologist at the Department of Health.

The condition is not new, but officials started to see a rise in cases in 2014. In addition to the pair of cases at CHOP, three cases are also being treated in Pittsburgh, 6ABC reported. Since then, more than 350 cases of the illness have been reported in the USA over a four-year period.

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In 2014, 120 children were diagnosed with AFM. So far this year, there have been 38 cases in 16 states, the CDC says. "We know that some patients diagnosed with AFM have recovered quickly, and some continue to have paralysis and require ongoing care".

"Surveillance has shown us that AFM cases generally peak in the months of September and October", the Nevada state health department said in a bulletin sent to healthcare providers in August.

The CDC said that the patients' symptoms have been most similar to complications of infection with certain viruses, including poliovirus, non-polio enteroviruses, adenoviruses, and West Nile virus.

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The virus that causes polio has been eradicated in most of the world by vaccination, but regular epidemics once swept through, paralyzing thousands of children.

Children’s Mercy Hospital treating patients with rare polio-like illness