Local

Top stories of 2016: Mystery illness in kids, including 1 Whatcom child, stirred up fear in parents

Nikolas Olivera, left, helps his brother Lucian while walking together on March 28, 2016, inside their home in Moorpark, Calif. Lucian suffers from a condition called acute flaccid myelitis, which causes polio-like symptoms. His left leg is paralyzed and his right leg is partially paralyzed. (Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
Nikolas Olivera, left, helps his brother Lucian while walking together on March 28, 2016, inside their home in Moorpark, Calif. Lucian suffers from a condition called acute flaccid myelitis, which causes polio-like symptoms. His left leg is paralyzed and his right leg is partially paralyzed. (Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times/TNS) TNS

Whatcom County parents were alarmed when news broke in late October of children admitted to Seattle Children’s Hospital with mysterious illnesses that caused sudden paralysis in an arm, a leg or both limbs.

There have been nine confirmed cases of a rare condition known as acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM, so far in Washington state this year. It has been described as a polio-like illness.

One of the ill children is from Whatcom County.

The others were from Franklin, King, Pierce, Snohomish and Spokane counties. The most recent confirmed case was a child from Spokane in November.

There could be another child with AFM, although health officials were awaiting confirmation as of Dec. 13.

The children with the acute neurologic illnesses ranged in age from 3 to 14 years.

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.

Washington state Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been investigating the cluster. They have said there was no common link shared by the ill children.

Early on in the investigation, it was thought that a Bellingham boy who died, 6-year-old Daniel Ramirez, may have AFM. It was later determined that he didn’t.

The exact cause for AFM remains unknown, although a number of germs and viruses are linked to it.

The increase in cases here reflects an overall increase this year in AFM nationally.

There were 108 cases in 36 states as of Oct. 31, according to the CDC.

Kie Relyea: 360-715-2234, @kierelyea

  Comments