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Local Doctor Explains Polio-Like Illness

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - An illness taking over the news right now has a lot of parents concerned.

A Minnesota family was on CBS This Morning just week. Elaine and Michael Young say their four-year-old son developed a fever in July and then shortly after couldn't move his arm. 

This is just one symptom of what health officials are calling a "Polio-like" illness. We spoke to a local doctor about what you need to know.

You've likely seen the headlines from across the region. A virus is infecting kids and creating a lot of scary symptoms.

"What we're talking about is Acute Flaccid Myelitis. Sometimes called Polio-like illness," Avera Internal Medicine and Pediatrics Dr. David Basel said.

According to the CDC, there have been 38 confirmed cases this year. That includes 14 in Colorado and a half dozen in Minnesota.

This infection is pretty rare. It hits anywhere from 25 to 100 people a year; usually children. The symptoms start out a lot like other illnesses. 

"You're going to have fever, maybe a mild headache. Maybe some nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, maybe a little bit of a rash. And it goes away and you never have any problems with it what-so-ever. But that one in a million case that virus actually invades the spinal cord," Basel said. 

Once in the spinal cord, it starts to attack the nervous system and cause paralysis where it strikes. The paralysis can be permanent, but there is a chance the nerves will heal. Unfortunately, there's no vaccine to prevent this or treatment once it strikes. 

However, there is a bright side.

"The good news is, remember, this is a very rare thing. You know, very rarely it's going to happen. So, it's not something that parents need to be overly concerned about every time they get a cold," Basel said.

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