2-year-old girl being treated in Chicago for paralyzing polio-like virus

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Doctors are warning that a mysterious and paralyzing child illness similar to polio has spread to Chicago.

A little girl diagnosed with the illness has been in the hospital since September 5th. It’s an extremely rare disease and similar to polio because it attacks the nervous system.

“She became paralyzed when we were in the hospital so I noticed it when they sat her up to do an x-ray and her head, she couldn’t keep it up and she's two. She hasn’t done that since she was a baby,” said mother Katy Payne.

It's called Acute Flaccid Myelitis, or AFM, and doctors say it can start out as a cold but can eventually cause paralysis.

Julia Payne’s parents say in early September they first went to the hospital because the toddler was feeling weak. Now she's being treated at Lurie Children's Hospital and will be discharged Wednesday to the Shirley Ryan ability lab for inpatient therapy. She is currently on a ventilator and doctors do think she will be okay, but it could take years to get strength back in all her extremities.

There are actually two local, recent cases but six children have been diagnosed recently in Minnesota. Health officials don't know how to treat it or what causes the mysterious disease other than it can start as a cold, which in some accelerate to extreme weakness.

“Really rare and a different type of weakness…they may not be able to lift their arms or move their arms. They may have facial weakness, facial drooping, unable to speak, trouble swallowing,” said Dr. Marcelo Malakooti.

The doctor says there is no need to panic and there's no vaccine for the disease. The best prevention is washing your hands often.