As of Oct. 28, eight children in Western Washington were hospitalized to Seattle Children’s Hospital with an acute neurological illness. State Department of Health is trying to determine if the children are suffering from the possibility of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), an extremely rare syndrome that causes varying degrees of paralysis similar to polio. Three of the children are from King County, one is from Pierce County, two are from Franklin County, and two are from Whatcom County. They range in age from 3 to 14.
There are many different causes of AFM. Symptoms typically include pain in their arms or legs, facial weakness, difficulty swallowing, or drooping of the eyes, may accompany the limb weakness. According to reports, the children had these range polio-like symptoms, especially the loss of strength or movement in one or more arms or legs. Doctors emphasized the syndrome is not contagious.
According to Kiro7, there were no cases of AFM reported in Washington State last year, in 2014 there were two. There have been more than 50 cases of AFM in 24 states across the United States this year. The Washington cases have not been confirmed as AFM, but are being investigated as such.
Dr. Jim Owens, a pediatric neurologist at Seattle Children’s, described it as “a body’s response to common infections,” adding, “It’s a really rare thing.” Meaning this disease with polio-like symptoms is unusual.
The Department of Health stated that the exact cause of AFM is unknown. Many viruses and germs are linked to the syndrome, including common germs that can cause respiratory infections such as tonsillitis, pharyngitis, laryngitis, sinusitis, otitis media, certain types of influenza, and the common cold. It can also be caused by poliovirus and non-polio enteroviruses, mosquito-borne viruses (including West Nile virus and Zika virus) and autoimmune conditions.
According to the report of The Seattle Times, three of the children are currently hospitalized at Seattle Children’s, and five have been released. The first case was seen in mid-September, the latest in mid-October. A ninth Washington case, in an adult, was recorded in the spring.
Dr. Scott Lindquist, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the state Department of Health, said he is not convinced that all eight cases in Washington will turn out to be AFM, and at this point, there is no evidence leading to a single source. Still, “I am concerned,” he said. “To be very frank about it, it is very unusual to have a clustering of these cases so close together, and I’m concerned we don’t have answers yet.”
Let us hope that this epidemic will be stopped with the eight children and let us also wish that this polio-like symptoms disease will be gone as soon as possible.