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6th child paralyzed with symptoms of rare disease, concern growing

Outbreak of polio-like disease hospitalizes 5 children in Washington

SEATTLE - It might start as a cold or sore throat, but children are ending up paralyzed with symptoms of a rare virus that once again is making its way through our state, according to the state Department of Health.

A sixth child has been reported of having symptoms matching the disease known as acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM. All six cases are among infants and children under the age of six who reportedly experienced symptoms of a respiratory illness a week before developing symptoms of AFM.

Two of the children are from King County and one each from Pierce, Lewis, Snohomish and now Skagit Counties. Three are being treated at Seattle Children’s Hospital and two others at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital in Tacoma.

Health professionals said the symptoms come on very suddenly and are a lot like polio.

“A parent might notice that a child is not using one of their limbs, for example, or that they are usually pretty active and they are falling because their legs seem weak," said Chas DeBolt, an epidemiologist with the state Department of Health.

While there is no cure and doctors are still searching for an exact cause, the good news is that over time most patients tend to make a full recovery.

“We had an outbreak in the fall in 2016 and we're in the fall again, and we are seeing what appears to be another small cluster of cases,” DeBolt said.

So far this year, AFM clusters have been detected in 16 states, with 38 cases total.

An onset of weakness in one or more limbs should be a red flag to parents, and the child should be checked out as soon as possible.

Preventative measures include washing hands, keeping current on vaccinations and steering clear of people who are sick.

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