Paralysis Outbreak In Washington State: 8 Children Affected By Mysterious & Rare Debilitating Syndrome

By Olivia Reese, Parent Herald November 09, 04:11 am
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A mysterious and rare debilitating syndrome has left eight children in Washington State paralyzed. Acute flaccid myelitis causes inflammation in the spinal cord, resulting in temporary or permanent paralysis.
(Photo : John Moore/Getty Images)

A mysterious and rare debilitating syndrome has affected eight children in Washington State. The illness targets the nervous system and can cause varying degrees of paralysis.

According to federal and state health officials, eight children developed acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), a debilitating syndrome that is also caused by the polio virus, ABC News reported. AFM causes inflammation in the spinal cord, resulting in temporary or permanent paralysis.

AFM involves abrupt weakness in one or more arms or legs, loss of muscle tone and reduced or missing reflexes, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention listed. People with AFM rarely experience numbness or other physical symptoms but some patients may feel pain in their arms or legs.

Other cases involve failure of the nerves in control of the head and neck. This results to facial weakness, drooping of the eyes, problems in swallowing and limb weakness.

Children affected with AFM in five different counties in Washington State are between three and 14 years old. They all experienced weakness or loss of movement in one or more limb. Three of the children with AFM are still at Seattle Children's Hospital and five have been discharged.

A spokesman from CDC told ABC News that they "haven't found evidence to identify what's causing these causes" but assured that investigation is continuing. The CDC is working alongside Washington "to examine case reports for potential causes and risk factors as well as providing technical assistance and communication support."

Officials at Seattle Children's Hospital assure that they are doing everything they can to prevent AFM from further spreading. Dr. Mark Del Beccaro, the chief medical officer at Seattle Children's Hospital, said in a statement released on Friday that it's safe to bring children to the institution because officials are implementing proper standard infection control "including putting patients with symptoms of active respiratory infections in isolation so they do not have contact with any other patients."

From Jan. 1 to Sept. 30, 2016, 89 people in 33 states across the United States have been diagnosed with AFM, according to CDC. AFM, however, is still considered as an extremely rare disease that only affects less one in a million.

Nevertheless, the CDC urges people to practice prevention steps against viruses such as thorough washing of hands, staying updated on vaccinations and protecting themselves against mosquito bites. As of late, the CDC is still working on trying to understand AFM's cause and risk factors.

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