More cases of rare 'polio-like' illness pop up around the US


But those aren't the only signs: Other symptoms can include eyelid or facial drooping, difficulty moving the eyes, difficulty swallowing and slurred speech, according to the state health department.

Reports surfaced on Wednesday that two Chicago-area children are being treated at Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago for the illness - including 2-year-old Julia Payne, who has been fighting the illness for almost a month.

The disease is known to hit the nervous system by traveling through the spinal cord. After treatment, the child was able to regain most of his muscle function, expect in his right arm, and is now in therapy, facing possible surgery.

"What we don't know is why these common cold symptoms, why in some individuals does it turn into AFM that's where the mystery lies", said Dr. Sinner.

AFM affects less than one in a million children. The increase coincided with a national outbreak of respiratory illnesses caused by a virus known as enterovirus D68.

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Since August 2014, when the CDC began tracking the illness more closely, the agency has reported 362 cases. At least six children in the state have been diagnosed and hospitalized with acute flaccid myelitis (or AFM) since September 20. While AFM doesn't have a cure, the symptoms can be treated and in most cases death can be avoided.

It is believed that AFM can arise from a viral infection, although environmental and genetic factors could also cause the illness to develop.

There is no treatment for AFM, but doctors advise frequent hand washing, covering of coughs, avoidance of mosquito bites and staying up to date on vaccinations. In particular, the condition can cause weakness in the arms and legs along with loss of muscle tone and problems with reflexes.

As of October 5, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had reported 38 cases of the disease in 16 states this year. This virus is transmitted from person to person and it can have severe effects of the brain and spinal cord of the system. 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. An additional possible case of AFM was reported out of Skagit County on Thursday. There are no specific treatments for AFM, so doctors may decide on certain treatments on a case-by-case basis. A clinical diagnosis, which was given in the state's six new cases, involves an MRI and a scan or a tap of the spine, which detects inflammation associated with AFM. Some cases have been linked to poliovirus (polio) and West Nile virus, according to the CDC.