Mysterious illness leaving children paralyzed in Washington

MERCER ISLAND, Wash. (CNN) – A mysterious illness that can leave a child paralyzed has pediatricians in Washington state offering reassurance to worried parents.

State officials announced eight possible cases of acute flaccid myelitis or AFM as it’s known.

“I have never seen a case of it,” Dr. Danette Glassy said.

She says AFM is mysterious because there is no known cause and can strike without warning.

“[The] sudden onset for a child might mean suddenly stumbling and unable to get up from the floor, dropping things and then progressively more weakness.”

“I had no idea your child could get paralyzed from a cold,” Heather Werdal, a patient’s mother, said.

Werdal says that is what happened two years ago to her teenaged son.

“Ten days after the original onset of the cold, his neck no longer supported his head, it would fall back the way newborns would.”

So far this year, the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says just 50 cases of AFM have been confirmed in the U.S.

Not including the eight cases at Seattle Children’s Hospital that remain unconfirmed.

Still Dr. Glassy has recommendations for parents worried about keeping their children healthy.

“Get your nutrition, and your exercise and your rest,” Dr. Glassy said. “Rest is important for immune system function. It’s important to get all your vaccines, including the polio vaccine. Although this one has nothing to do with polio, all of the vaccines prevent diseases we do know about.”

Three children suspected of having AFM are still at Seattle Children’s Hospital.

Five others who may have the disease have been released.

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