Five Washington children hospitalized with sudden paralysis

Ebony Scott
October 14, 2018

Three cases of a mysterious illness that partially paralyzes children and is likened to polio have now been confirmed in Pittsburgh.

Muscle weakness, difficulty swallowing and facial drooping are all signs of the polio-like illness that's now showing up in hospitals.

Acute flaccid myelitis has been diagnosed in at least six Minnesota children and health officials admit there are gaps in our understanding of the disease, including its causes and how to treat it.

Minnesota has noticed a spike in suspected AFM cases in recent weeks.

"The increase in AFM cases in 2014 coincided with a national outbreak of severe respiratory illness among people caused by enterovirus D68 (EV-D68)", the CDC notes on its website. From August 2014 through August 2018, the CDC has been notified of 362 cases of the illness, mostly in children.

It can cause a sudden onset of weakness or paralysis in the arms or legs, as well as loss of muscle tone and reflexes. "In very rare cases, it is possible that the process in the body that triggers AFM may also trigger other serious neurologic complications that could lead to death".

The Washington State Department of Health and four local public health agencies are investigating an additional report a child who had symptoms matching AFM.

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All six cases required hospitalization and prompted health officials to encourage parents to closely monitor their children for symptoms.

"What we do know is that AFM can be caused by lots of different things, and one of those things is a viral infection", said Dr. Elizabeth Meade, Chief of Pediatrics at Swedish.

"He had abnormality throughout his entire spinal cord", said mother Elaine Young. Dr. Meade said sometimes people recover from the paralysis, but others don't recover even after several years.

"While all the patients were hospitalized, almost all have fully recovered", the department stressed. The causes of cases are often not confirmed. There is now no vaccine to protect against the development of AFM.

In 2016, there were nine cases of AFM in Washington and three in 2017.

Two-year-old Julia Payne is one of two children being treated for AFM in Chicago.

Though the CDC says it's not necessarily proven to guard against AFM, they recommend frequent hand-washing with soap and water.

Other reports by GizPress

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