Cases of rare polio-like illness affecting children on the rise, including Indiana

Two-year-old Julia Payne is being treated for acute flaccid myelitis in Chicago.
Polio-like disease
2-year-old gets polio-like virus

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating 127 possible cases of a rare polio-like illness across 32 states, including Indiana.

The Indiana State Department of Health has confirmed to Eyewitness News a case of a rare condition that afflicts the nervous system, in particular the spinal cord.

An 8-year-old girl, whose father said she has some paralysis and a partially-collapsed lung, is being treated in Chicago.

There have been 62 cases confirmed so far in 22 states.

A 2-year-old girl from Illinois is also being treated at the same hospital.

The Indiana State Department of Health confirms two cases of acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM in 2017.

Nationally, there are 62 confirmed cases of AFM in 32 states so far this year. In 2017, there were 33 cases.

What is it?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is still working to determine what exactly AFM is and how to treat it.

Here's what the agency is saying about it:

  • Most patients are children.
  • The patients’ symptoms have been most similar to complications of infection with certain viruses, including poliovirus, non-polio enteroviruses, adenoviruses, and West Nile virus.
  • CDC has tested many different specimens from AFM patients for a wide range of pathogens (germs) that can cause AFM. To date, no pathogen (germ) has been consistently detected in the patients’ spinal fluid; a pathogen detected in the spinal fluid would be good evidence to indicate the cause of AFM since this condition affects the spinal cord.
  • The increase in AFM cases in 2014 coincided with a national outbreak of severe respiratory illness among people caused by enterovirus D68 (EV-D68). Among the people confirmed with AFM, CDC did not consistently detect EV-D68 in every patient.
  • In 2017, CDC received information for 33 confirmed cases of AFM. (Note: The cases occurred in 16 states across the U.S.)
  • From August 2014 through August 2018, CDC has received information on a total of 362 cases of AFM across the US; most of the cases continue to occur in children.

What we don't know

Where else is it showing up?

The CDC reports cases in 16 states in 2018, but will not release to Eyewitness News what states that includes.

CDC strives to strike a balance between providing information that is beneficial to the public’s health and protecting the privacy of patients and their families. Therefore, CDC is currently deferring to states to release information about acute flaccid myelitis cases as they choose. - Kristen Nordlund, CDC

States reporting cases include Minnesota, Colorado, Illinois and now Indiana.

What parents should look for

  • Sudden onset of arm and leg weakness
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Sometimes slurring of the speech


  • Stay up-to-date on vaccines
  • Wash your hands regularly
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites
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