Five children in Washington state have been hospitalized for the sudden onset of paralysis of one or more of their limbs, Washington State Department of Health officials announced Wednesday.
Health department officials are working with experts to confirm whether the children have acute flaccid myelitis (AFM).
All five of the infants and children are younger than 6 years old.
AFM is a rare condition that affects the nervous system, especially the spinal cord, health officials said.
On Oct. 8, our sister station WSBTV reported an uptick in the illness impacting children.
It is raising serious red flags with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers.
The rare disease is similar to polio.
The five young children being treated in Washington state reportedly had symptoms of a respiratory illness in the week prior to developing symptoms of AFM.
Health officials said the children are residents of King County, Pierce County, Lewis County and Snohomish County.
In 2016, there were nine cases of AFM in Washington state, health officials said. In 2017 there were three cases, and since the beginning of 2018 there has been one case in the state.
“Symptoms (of AFM) typically include sudden weakness in one or more arms or legs, along with loss of muscle tone and decreased or absent reflexes,” health officials said. “AFM can cause a range of types and severity of symptoms, but the commonality among them is a loss of strength or movement in one or more arms or legs. The cause of any individual case of AFM can be hard to determine, and often, no cause is found. CDC specialists will make the final determination if these (new Washington state) cases are AFM.”
5 WA children from 4 counties were hospitalized for sudden onset of paralysis, likely brought on by acute flaccid myelitis (AFM). “We’ll continue to investigate and share information when we have it.” Read our news release for more information. https://t.co/Trq0UUoNKZ pic.twitter.com/5ZcdRmpzsY
— WA Dept. of Health (@WADeptHealth) October 10, 2018
The reporting below on AFM comes from WSBTV:
The CDC has tested many different specimens from AFM patients for a wide range of pathogens (germs) that can cause the disease.
To date, no pathogen (germ) has been consistently detected in the patients’ spinal fluid; a pathogen detected in the spinal fluid would be good evidence to indicate the cause of AFM since this condition affects the spinal cord.
What CDC Doesn’t Know
Among the people who were diagnosed with AFM since August 2014:
- The cause of most of the AFM cases remains unknown.
- We don’t know what caused the increase in AFM cases starting in 2014.
- We have not yet determined who is at higher risk for developing AFM, or the reasons why they may be at higher risk.
- We do not yet know the long-term effects of AFM. We know that some patients diagnosed with AFM have recovered quickly, and some continue to have paralysis and require ongoing care.
What CDC Is Doing
- CDC is actively investigating AFM cases and monitoring disease activity.
- We are working closely with healthcare providers and state and local health departments to increase awareness for AFM.
- We are encouraging healthcare providers to recognize and report suspected cases of AFM to their health departments, and for health departments to send this information to CDC to help us understand the nationwide burden of AFM. CDC is also actively looking for risk factors and possible causes of this condition.
CDC activities include:
- Urging healthcare providers to be vigilant for AFM among their patients, and to send information about suspected cases to their health departments
- Verifying clinical information of suspected AFM cases submitted by health departments, and working with health departments and neurologists to classify cases using a case definition adopted by the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE)
- Testing specimens, including stool, blood, and cerebrospinal fluid, from suspected AFM cases
- Working with healthcare providers, experts, and state and local health departments to investigate and better understand the AFM cases, including potential causes and how often the condition occurs
- Providing new and updated information to healthcare providers, health departments, policymakers, the public, and partners in various formats, such as scientific journals and meetings, and CDC’s AFM website and social media
- Using multiple research methods to further explore the potential association of AFM with possible causes as well as risk factors for AFM. This includes collaborating with experts to review MRI scans of people from the past 10 years to determine how many AFM cases occurred before 2014, updating treatment and management protocols, and engaging with several academic centers to conduct active surveillance simultaneously for both AFM and respiratory viruses.