Mysterious Illness Paralyzing Kids Across US Again

Acute flaccid myelitis makes a comeback after no new cases were reported in 2015
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 9, 2016 2:57 PM CST
Mysterious Illness Paralyzing Kids Across US Again
In this June 28, 2015 photo, Kingston Robinson prepares to hit the ball during a tee ball game in Plano, Texas. Kingston has had a near miraculous recovery from Acute Flaccid Myelitis. He's one of more than 115 children in 34 states who became paralyzed last year after developing a cold.   (Vernon Bryant/The Dallas Morning News)

It was a quiet 2015 after dozens of people, mostly children, fell gravely ill in 2014 from a mysterious condition called acute flaccid myelitis, which first presents as a cold but quickly escalates to polio-like symptoms, including paralysis. It is quiet no longer as the Centers for Disease Control confirms what appear to be about 90 cases across 33 states so far this year, and three of them are in Oregon, home to the first case in 2014, reports the Oregonian. Washington, which saw only a couple cases in 2014, appears to be suffering from something of an outbreak, with nine cases so far this year including the first suspected fatality; a 6-year-old boy is believed to have died from the illness, reports The illness is not contagious, according to doctors, but it's not clear how people contract it.

Little is known about AFM, though it's been linked to enteroviruses as well as West Nile and related viruses, and there is no treatment other than comfort care. It affects the nervous system, particularly the spinal cord, and telltale symptoms include weakness and paralysis. "If a child or adult is experiencing any kind of weakness at all, they should see their health care provider immediately," Oregon's public health division spokesperson tells KATU. Aside from Daniel Ramirez, the 6-year-old taken off life support last week, most kids appear to make partial to even full recoveries. KOMO News reports that a teenager afflicted in Washington in 2014 still needs a wheelchair but continues to improve and hopes to go to college soon. (Ramirez went from healthy to dead in two weeks.)

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