Five children hospitalized for paralysis, possibly AFM

Five children hospitalized for paralysis, possibly AFM

Investigators are researching reports of five children who were hospitalized for sudden onset of paralysis in one or more limbs.

The Department of Health is working with experts in neurology from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for confirmation of acute flaccid myelitis or AFM.

All cases reported are among infants and children under age six who also had a respiratory illness in the week prior to developing symptoms of AFM. The children are residents of King, Pierce, Lewis and Snohomish County.

AFM is a rare condition that affects the nervous system, specifically the spinal cord. Symptoms typically include sudden weakness in one or more arms or legs, as well as decreased or absent reflexes. There is a wide range of types and severity of symptoms, but the most common among them is the loss of strength or movement in one or more arms or legs.

Some common viruses and germs, including common germs that can cause colds and sore throats, have been linked to AFM. It can also be caused by poliovirus and non-polio enteroviruses and possibly by non-infectious conditions.

“At this point, there isn’t evidence that would point to a single source of illness among these cases,” said Dr. Scott Lindquist, state infectious disease epidemiologist at the Department of Health. “We’re working closely with medical providers and public health agencies. We’ll continue to investigate and share information when we have it.”

There are no specific recommendations for avoiding AFM, but you can still help protect yourself from some of its known causes.

Always wash your hands with soap and water, avoid close contact with those who are already carrying a contagious virus and clean surfaces with a disinfectant.