Spokane Regional Health District is reporting that a Spokane County child, a male under the age of 10, has acute flaccid myelitis. The diagnosis was confirmed by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the only organization equipped to rule in or rule out AFM.
AFM is a rare syndrome with no specific cause, as is the case with the report in Spokane County. AFM is not contagious. The condition affects the nervous system, specifically the spinal cord. Symptoms typically include sudden weakness in one or more arms or legs, along with loss of muscle tone and decreased or absent reflexes.
According to CDC, the syndrome is one of several conditions that can result in neurologic illness with limb weakness. Such illnesses can result from a variety of causes, including viral infections, environmental toxins, genetic disorders, and autoimmune disorders. Oftentimes, however, despite extensive laboratory testing, a cause for AFM is unable to be identified.
“We wish we had specific recommendations for families who are concerned about this devastating syndrome, but there is not enough known about its causes,” said Dr. Sam Artzis, SRHD interim health officer. “Some children with AFM recover, but unfortunately many do not. Obviously our hearts are with this family.”
At this time there is no known connection between this case and other confirmed cases in Washington, according to Washington state Department of Health. Nationally, CDC is investigating an increase in AFM in 2016 and intensifying its efforts to understand the syndrome’s causes and risk factors.
One possible reason for the increase in cases is more awareness among, and reporting by, healthcare providers and health departments. According to CDC, as of September 2016, 89 people in 33 states were confirmed to have AFM.
Even with an increase in cases in 2016, AFM remains a very rare syndrome -- less than one in 1 million individuals will be affected. There were no cases of AFM reported in Washington state in 2015, and in 2014 there were two.
Spokane Regional Health District joins medical providers, its partners in public health across the state, DOH, and CDC in continuing to monitor for and investigate AFM, and help investigate its underlying causes.
More information is available at srhd.org, as well as on CDC’s website, cdc.gov.