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Rock Falls boy may have AFM

October 15, 2018

ROCK FALLS – A 5-year-old Rock Falls boy may be among a handful of northern Illinois children to have contracted a polio-like illness called acute flaccid myelitis.

The virus that causes AFM affects the nervous system and causes inflammation in the spinal cord, which in turn causes muscles and reflexes in the body to become weak and even paralyzed, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

It often presents with cold or flu-like symptoms. The underlying cause or causes is not known, there is no cure, and only the CDC officially can diagnose it.

Hudsyn Finkle, son of Danielle Volkmann and Adam Finkle, is suspected of having the virus but has not yet been officially diagnosed, the couple told KWQC-TV. He had a cold, then a sinus infection and bronchitis, then trouble moving his head and pain in his arm. A Rockford neurologist suggested AFM.

A 6-year-old Sycamore boy, who also seemed to have a cold until his arms felt “kind of funny,” also may have AFM, the DeKalb Daily Chronicle reported Friday.

In fact, 10 northern Illinois children have been diagnosed, the Illinois Department of Public Health said in a news release Friday. The agency does not provide specifics such as ages, location or sex.

Where AFM is suspected, the IDPH is working with health care providers to collect necessary information to send to the CDC.

AFM can be hard to diagnose because it shares many of the same symptoms as other neurological diseases.

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

The prognosis ranges from case to case: Some regain full strength, others do not.

Often, a specific cause cannot be identified. AFM and other neurologic conditions like it have a variety of causes, including viruses, environmental toxins, and genetic disorders.

One known cause is the mosquito-borne West Nile virus.

“You won’t get West Nile because mosquitoes are gone for the winter,” Whiteside County Health Department Administrator Beth Fiorini said Friday. “But you could get AFM through other infections, We just don’t know what they are yet.”

There are no specific treatments for AFM, but a doctor who specializes in treating brain and spinal cord illnesses may recommend certain interventions on a case-by-case basis.

To avoid contracting the virus, people are advised to wash their hands with soap and water, avoid close contact with sick people and clean surfaces with disinfectant, especially those a sick person has touched.

The IDPH also advises anyone exhibiting symptoms to seek medical care right away, and to make sure children’s vaccinations are up-to-date.

Since the CDC began tracking AFM cases 4 years ago, at least 362 cases have been logged nationwide, according to the agency’s website. This year there have been 38 people diagnosed 16 states, including Illinois.

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Go to Illinois Department of Public Health website at dph.illinois.gov of the Center for Disease Control at cdc.gov/acute-flaccid-myelitis/ to learn more about AFM.