State: Bellingham boy who died among 8 hospitalized with mystery illness

Daniel Ramirez, 6, who fought an unknown virus attacking his brain for two weeks died Sunday afternoon, his family said.
Daniel Ramirez, 6, who fought an unknown virus attacking his brain for two weeks died Sunday afternoon, his family said. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

A 6-year-old Bellingham boy who has died was among a cluster of eight children who were admitted to Seattle Children’s Hospital in recent weeks with illnesses that caused sudden paralysis in an arm, a leg, or both arms and legs, the Washington state Department of Health said Monday afternoon.

The health department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are continuing to investigate the cases, which involve children from four counties who range in age from 3 to 14 years.

Health officials don’t yet know the reason for the children’s mysterious neurologic illnesses, saying they are trying to determine whether they have a rare condition known as acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM.

Two of the children were from Whatcom County. One of those was 6-year-old Daniel Ramirez.

Daniel was rushed to Seattle Children’s on Oct. 15 for symptoms that included drooling, slurred speech, pain in his leg and incontinence, according to a Q13 news report. Marijo De Guzman and Jose Ramirez, the boy’s parents, said they thought it was a stomachache.

The unknown virus then attacked his brain and his spine.

His family posted on the Facebook page “Praying for Daniel Ramirez” and a GoFundMe page that the Bellingham boy was pronounced dead at 1:33 p.m. Sunday.

He was, however, kept on a ventilator until Monday, said Jessica Marx, a friend of Daniel’s mother.

State investigators acknowledged Monday that Daniel was among the eight children being evaluated for possible AFM but declined, because of patient privacy rules, to say much about specific cases.

Of the eight children, five have been released from the hospital; two remained hospitalized; and one died Monday, they said.

On the “Praying for Daniel Ramirez” Facebook page, his family wrote early Sunday that the boy had suffered two strokes between Oct. 21 and Oct. 27. Doctors were doing a second round of tests on Sunday and, if it was confirmed that he was brain dead, they would pronounce his time of death, they wrote.

Marx said the family was unclear whether the boy was part of the AFM cluster but would post updates on the Facebook page when information became available.

What investigators have said is that eight children were admitted to the hospital with a range of symptoms that also differed in severity. But all lost strength or movement in one or more of their arms or legs, state health officials and Seattle Children’s said.

The children were from four counties:

▪ Three from King County

▪ Two from Whatcom County

▪ Two from Franklin County

▪ One from Pierce County

The CDC will confirm whether the cases are AFM, using lab tests and magnetic resonance imaging to search for distinctive lesions in certain areas of the spinal cord, health officials said.

Symptoms typically include sudden weakness in one or more arms or legs, as well as loss of muscle tone and reflexes.

Other symptoms include weakness or drooping in the face and eyelids, difficulty with moving eyes, difficulty swallowing or slurred speech.

Kie Relyea: 360-715-2234, @kierelyea