Eight Children Affected by Neurological Illness

Seattle Children's Hospital exterior
Eight children have been hospitalized with a neurological illness.

A strange undiagnosed neurological illness has affected at least eight children in Western Washington. The kids have been hospitalized as they exhibit a range of type and various severity of symptoms. All cases were linked together by a degree of paralysis in one or more arms or legs similar to polio.

Doctors have not yet been able to determine the exact cause or nature of this mysterious neurological illness that seems to be affecting the eight children. At this point, health officials aren’t entirely sure if all the kids are affected by the same illness.

The main culprit is considered to be acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) which is an extremely rare syndrome that affects the nervous system of both adults and children. More specifically, it affects the spinal cord but it is not contagious. Although AFM has not yet been confirmed to be the disease that’s affecting the children, doctors, and other health officials are investigating it as such.

According to the US Department of Health, there have been reports of a nationwide increased in AFM this year. Experts have not been able to determine the exact cause of AFM, as it is linked to a large variety of viruses and germs, even very common ones like those causing sore throats, colds, and respiratory infections.

Currently, five of the eight children affected have been released while the other three are still hospitalized at Seattle Children’s. The CDC reports that there have been 50 confirmed cases of AFM nationwide in 2016 in 24 states.  Doctors are concerned about the cluster of cases happening so close to each other. This may point to a single source but as of yet, there is no evidence of this. Other doctors aren’t convinced that all eight children will be confirmed to have AFM.

Patients suffering from AFM experience weakness in their limbs. AN MRI scan reveals the inflammation of the spinal cord which is treated with certain drugs such as steroids. A definitive diagnosis requires a certain amount of time. This is why it is uncertain from what illness the eight children suffer from.

If you children complain about a sudden weakness in their limbs, parents should call their pediatrician in order to evaluate the whole spectrum of symptoms.

Image credit: Erik Stuhaug Courtesy Seattle Children’s Hospital

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