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Cluster of children with mystery illness climbs to 9, two from Whatcom

A child from Snohomish County has been admitted to Seattle Children’s Hospital, increasing to nine the number of children with mysterious illnesses that caused sudden paralysis in an arm, a leg, or both arms and legs, the Washington state Department of Health said in an update Tuesday morning. Two of the nine children were from Whatcom County, including a 6-year-old from Bellingham, Daniel Ramirez, who died.
A child from Snohomish County has been admitted to Seattle Children’s Hospital, increasing to nine the number of children with mysterious illnesses that caused sudden paralysis in an arm, a leg, or both arms and legs, the Washington state Department of Health said in an update Tuesday morning. Two of the nine children were from Whatcom County, including a 6-year-old from Bellingham, Daniel Ramirez, who died. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

A child from Snohomish County has been admitted to Seattle Children’s Hospital, increasing to nine the number of children with a mysterious illness that caused sudden weakness in an arm, a leg, or both arms and legs, the Washington state Department of Health said Tuesday.

That was among the newest details as the health department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continued to investigate the cluster of cases, which involved children from five counties who ranged in age from 3 to 14 years.

Two of the nine children were from Whatcom County. One of them, 6-year-old Bellingham resident Daniel Ramirez, has died.

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

Two of the nine cases have been confirmed as AFM, the state Health Department said Tuesday. The other cases were still being evaluated.

It’s not yet known whether Ramirez had AFM.

The Health Department, declining to discuss individual cases, wouldn’t say whether the other child from Whatcom County was among the two confirmed cases.

Three of the children remained in the hospital Tuesday, while five have been released.

No link among the cases or specific cause for the illness has been identified, the Health Department said, cautioning that investigators may not be able to identify a cause.

A number of germs can cause AFM. They include enteroviruses, which usually cause milder illness in children such as respiratory infections unless they get into the central nervous system. Then they can cause more serious problems, such as inflammation of the brain.

Other causes of AFM include West Nile virus, autoimmune disease or environmental toxins.

The 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.

They were from five counties:

▪ Three from King County

▪ Two from Whatcom County

▪ Two from Franklin County

▪ One from Pierce County

▪ One from Snohomish County

The CDC will attempt to confirm the presence of AFM, using lab tests and magnetic resonance imaging to search for distinctive lesions in certain areas of the spinal cord.

In addition to weakness of the limbs, the condition also could weaken the muscles of the face and the eyes. In severe cases, breathing could become difficult.

Health officials said AFM was rare, with fewer than one in a million people afflicted by it. Before the two most recent confirmed cases, there had been one in Washington state this year.

Kie Relyea: 360-715-2234, @kierelyea

Learn more about AFM

The Washington state Health Department will post updates of the investigation, including a fact sheet on acute flaccid myelitis, at doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/AFMInvestigation.

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