SPRINGFIELD — Ten children in northern Illinois have been diagnosed with acute flaccid myelitis, a mysterious illness that causes paralysis, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

AFM is a rare and serious condition that affects the nervous system, specifically the spinal cord, causing the muscles and reflexes in the body to work abnormally. This type of condition is not new. Anyone can get AFM or neurologic conditions like it. There are different possible causes, such as viruses, toxins and genetic disorders, according to information on the IDPH website.

Most patients will have sudden onset of limb weakness and loss of muscle tone and reflexes. Some patients also will experience:


facial droop/weakness,
difficulty moving the eyes,
drooping eyelids, or
difficulty with swallowing or slurred speech.

Numbness or tingling is rare in patients with AFM, though some patients have pain in their arms or legs. Some patients with AFM may be unable to pass urine. The most severe symptom of AFM is respiratory failure, which can happen when the muscles involved with breathing become weak. This can require urgent ventilator support.

If you or your child develops any of these symptoms, the Department of Public Health says you should seek medical care right away.

More information about AFM, its causes, signs and symptoms, and treatment can be found on the IDPH website, www.dph.illinois.gov/, under diseases and conditions. Additional information on AFM can be found on the CDC website, www.CDC.gov/. Any further updates on the number of suspected cases will be posted on the IDPH website.