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Rare disease that causes limb paralysis in infants hits Washington; no reported cases Spokane

UPDATED: Sat., Oct. 13, 2018, 2:16 p.m.

 (Heidi de Marco / TNS)
(Heidi de Marco / TNS)

A rare condition that afflicts infants with limb paralysis has appeared in six cases in Washington State recently, but none in Spokane County.

Beyond Washington, health care providers in at least 26 states have reported clusters of cases of the condition, called Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), and the number of reports is rising.

“People should think about how tremendously rare it is,” said Kim Papich, spokesperson for Spokane County Health.

The likelihood of a child being diagnosed is about one in a million, she said.

One case was reported in Spokane County in 2016, she said, when a child under 10 years old lost feeling and control of his limbs, resulting in the need for serious therapy and treatment, Papich said.

“It wasn’t going to be one of the ones where he was going to be back in a couple of days,” she said.

No other information on the case was available.

Papich said care providers will report cases if they suspect a child has AFM, but only the Center for Disease Control can diagnose it.

None of the reported cases in Washington state have been confirmed by the CDC.

Papich said it’s “very obvious” to see.

“I don’t think a parent is going to miss this is happening to their child,” she said.

Washington state reported six cases of AFM; two in King County, and one each from Lewis, Pierce, Skagit and Snohomish counties.

All cases in Washington are from children under six years old, according to the Washington Department of Health.

What causes AFM?

The cause of AFM seems to be viral infection, Papich said, but there’s no definitively known cause.

Some children diagnosed with AFM can make a full recovery in a few weeks, and the symptoms range from numbness to complete paralysis of a child’s limbs.

There’s no evidence that the cases in Washington are related, according to the Department of Health.

AFM has no treatment other than physical therapy, and the best way to prevent it is to wash your hands well and refrain from sharing straws and utensils.

Papich said there’s no evidence that AFM is caused by vaccines, but “the conspiracy theories are running pretty high.”

If you have more questions, Papich said to contact your health care provider or visit https://www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/AFM for more information, including the most recent reported cases.


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