The Center for Disease Control believes cases of Acute Flaccid Myelitis (AFM) are declining for the year. The polio-like illness can cause sudden paralysis to a child's limbs.
There have been 9 confirmed cases of AFM in Washington this year. Nationwide, 134 confirmed cases were found in 33 states and 299 cases were reported.
AFM affects a person’s nervous system, specifically the spinal cord. AFM can stem from a variety of causes, including viral infections, according to the CDC. Symptoms typically include sudden weakness in one or more arms or legs, loss of muscle tone, and decreased or absent reflexes.
“Most cases are reported between August and October, and a marked reduction in cases is seen in November,” the CDC wrote in a release. “That pattern appears to be repeating in 2018 because states have reported fewer PUIs over the past couple of weeks. CDC expects this decline to continue.”
The agency said it noticed cases trend higher every two years.
The health department says many viruses and germs are linked to AFM, including common germs that can cause colds and sore throats, and respiratory infections. It can also be caused by poliovirus and non-polio enteroviruses, mosquito-borne viruses such as West Nile or Zika, and autoimmune conditions.
Olga Buiter’s daughter, Zoe, lost motion in one arm after developing a cold this October. Doctors believe she developed AFM.
Buiter said though cases may be winding down, their family still doesn’t have many answers about what happened to Zoe, or what her future will look like.
“It’s been really hard, because you have a small baby who is supposed to hit milestones, so I think a lot about the here and now, like why she is not crawling, why is she not pulling up to stand,” said Buiter.
“It’s really hard to stay positive, and I also think about the future, because they don’t know – some kids recover, some don’t.”
She said Zoe has regained some movement in her hand and wrist, but not the arm. Her daughter now does physical therapy a few times a week, and sometimes wears a special sensory suit to encourage movement and good posture.
Zoe just turned 9 months old.
Buiter said Zoe appears to be happy and healthy apart from her arm. She said the larger issue is the emotional impact.
“It’s not hard for her, it’s hard for us,” she said.
“It might never return, her arm might stay like this,” she said. “But yeah – it’s not healthy I think to always think like that.”