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Several Kids Have Developed This Rare, Polio-Like Illness

If there's anything certain about this time of year (other than trick-or-treating, of course) it's that illness seems to spread like wildfires. Kids are often missing school and we're all washing our hands and dishing out hand sanitizer like crazy. Parenting during the fall and winter months gets a little bit more interesting. This year, there is an extra layer of concern for parents as health officials are warning parents of a potentially life-threatening illness called Acute Flaccid Myelitis, after three more children tested positive. Here's what you need to know to keep your family healthy.

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First, the three children who are infected are pediatric patients in parts of Minnesota and Colorado. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention is currently investigating the cases and the things that are possibly causing it. Acute flaccid myelitis, also being called AFM is a very rare, polio-like illness.

According to Time, acute flaccid myelitis affects the spinal cord, muscular function, reflexes and usually occurs in children up to 10 years of age. This then can cause muscle weakness, paralysis, respiratory failure or even death, according to the CDC. The real danger occurs whenever the child's muscles become so weak, that they are no longer able to breathe by themselves or when neurological complications are present.

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Polio, which has very similar symptoms, has been eradicated in the United States with it's last reported case being in 1979. Though Polio still exists in parts of Asia and Africa, so if you're planning on visiting, the CDC does recommend a Polio booster shot. There is not any current vaccinations that prevent AFM.

Most likely, this is the first time you're hearing about this disease, at is it really extremely rare. So rare that it impacts one out of every million people in the United States per year. While the causes are unknown, however, the CDC does say the genetic conditions, environmental toxins or viral infections can play a role in its development.

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This Minnesota outbreak did impact at least a dozen children, according to ABC News. It is being called an outbreak because they usually only see about one case per year. In Illinois, nine cases of AFM have been reported, according to ABC News. And in Washington, at least five children are believed to have come down with the illness, according to KEPR.

Because of this outbreak, it's even more important to make sure that your whole family is adhering to proper hand washing and hygiene routines to keep these germs away.

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