Kids In Washington Investigated For Mysterious Neurological Disease

It was reported that three kids from Washington have been hospitalized and evaluated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention for experiencing symptoms of a rare and mysterious illness.  Federal and state officials say the kids could be experiencing a rare disease called Acute Flaccid Myelitis, commonly known as AFM, a debilitating polio-like illness of the nervous system.

The kids are from King County and one is from Spokane.   A spokeswoman for the Washington Department of Health confirmed that two children are still in the hospital while the other one was treated at Seattle Children's Hospital and released. 

Exact Cause Of AFM Not Determined Yet

The children, who are between 3 and 14 years, old experienced sudden weakness in one or both arms or legs, along with loss of muscle tone and decreased or absent reflexes.  Why children develop AFM is a mystery.   Anna Halloran, Epidemiologist with the Spokane Regional Health District, said: "It can be caused by environmental toxins or autoimmune disorders.  But this is a very, very rare condition."  No direct link has been found between the cases in Washington or the 89 people in 33 other states that have been diagnosed with AFM in 2016, causing even more of a mystery for health officials.

AFM Is Debilitating And There Is Currently No Cure For It

Acute Flaccid Myelitis is a very rare condition affecting about one in one million people, but a recent increase in cases is a cause for alarm.  Just two weeks ago, the CDC confirmed eight children who were hospitalized in five counties across Washington who tested positive for the rare disorder.   The disease itself is not contagious, but the viruses that bring it on can be.  "It really is a very devastating experience for children and families.  We're finding that children are affected more frequently and there are only theories at this point on why that may be," Halloran said.  The worst part of the disease is that, it currently does not have a cure. 

"At this point, there isn't any evidence yet that would point to a single source of illness among these cases," Dr. Scott Lindquist, state infectious disease epidemiologist, said in a health department statement. "However, this investigation is just getting underway and we're looking at all possibilities as we try to understand what might have contributed to these illnesses."

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