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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane County boy confirmed to have rare, serious illness that can cause paralysis

From staff reports

A boy in Spokane County has been confirmed to have acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), a mysterious illness that leads to muscle weakness and sometimes permanent paralysis.

Only the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can diagnose the syndrome.

There’s no known cause of AFM and no cure, but it’s not contagious, the Spokane Regional Health District said Tuesday.

“No one has died” from AFM, noted Kim Papich, public information officer for the Spokane Regional Health District. “The concern is that it can affect the lungs and interfere with breathing.”

The CDC reports that 120 children with a median age of 7 were diagnosed with AFM from Aug. 1, 2014, to the end of that year. The number of cases fell sharply in 2015, to 21. But there’s been a resurgence in cases this year, with 89 people in 33 states confirmed to have AFM. AFM has been confirmed in eight other children in Washington.

No information was released on the Spokane County boy except that he’s under age 10.

“We wish we had specific recommendations for families who are concerned about this devastating syndrome, but there is not enough known about its causes,” Dr. Sam Artzis, the health district’s interim health officer, said in a news release. “Some children with AFM recover, but unfortunately many do not. Obviously our hearts are with this family.”

Besides the Spokane County boy, the eight Washington children confirmed to have AFM are ages 3 to 14 and live in King, Pierce, Franklin, Whatcom and Snohomish counties.

While the cause of the disease is unknown, researchers say many viruses and germs are linked to AFM, including common germs that can cause colds, sore throats and respiratory infections. AFM is also associated with poliovirus; mosquito-borne viruses such as West Nile or Zika; and autoimmune conditions.

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