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BLOOMINGTON — An uncommon but serious neurological condition, whose symptoms include sudden limb weakness, has been diagnosed in nine youths in northern Illinois.

Illinois Department of Public Health reported Wednesday that it has received reports from health care providers of nine diagnosed cases of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM). There also has been a recent spike in cases reported in Colorado and Minnesota, according to IDPH.

All nine are individuals younger than 18 and from northern Illinois.

"We are not aware of any cases in McLean County," said Lisa Slater of the McLean County Health Department.

The same is true in Macon County.  "We have not seen any cases in Macon County," said the county health department's Marisa Hosier.

Between August 2014 and August 2018, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention received information on a total of 362 confirmed cases of AFM nationwide. There were about 15 cases reported in August 2018.

Melaney Arnold, of the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), said the state would not name the counties where the nine people live.

"Because this is a very uncommon syndrome, we're not providing locations to help protect patients' privacy," Arnold said.

All nine individuals have been hospitalized, Arnold said.

IDPH is gathering information about the patients to send to the CDC to make a final determination on diagnosis.

While the condition is not new, the number of cases began to increase in 2014, according to CDC. 

Since 2015, four Illinois cases have been confirmed by CDC. 

AFM affects a person's spinal cord and may be caused by a virus, environmental toxins or genetic disorder. The viruses include enteroviruses (polio and non-polio), West Nile virus and adenoviruses.

Symptoms include sudden limb weakness and loss of muscle tone and reflexes, facial droop and weakness, difficulty moving the eyes, drooping eyelids and difficulty with swallowing or slurred speech.

Parents whose children develop any of these symptoms should seek medical attention. While there is no treatment for AFM, a neurologist may recommend therapy to help.

The long-term prognosis of people with AFM isn't known, according to CDC.

IDPH urges everyone to be up to date with all recommended vaccinations, including poliovirus, and to wear insect repellent to protect yourself from mosquito-borne viruses such as West Nile.

Dr. Tina Tan, who specializes in infectious diseases and has attended one of the patients, said the best advice for parents is to be vigilant and take note of concerning symptoms.

"If their child gets an enteroviral infection, they need to look for symptoms such as sudden onset of arm and leg weakness, difficulty swallowing. Sometimes slurring of the speech," Tan said.

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Contact Paul Swiech at (309) 820-3275. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_swiech

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


Health Reporter

Health reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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