"All cases are among infants and children under age six who all reportedly had symptoms of a respiratory illness in the week prior to developing symptoms of AFM", the Washington State Department of Health said in a statement Wednesday.
AFM is a condition that affects the nervous system and causes muscle weakness, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The mysterious illness that's paralyzing children is spreading across the United States, with cases popping up in both Chicago and Pittsburgh after initial reports from Minnesota.
Symptoms may include muscle weakness in the arms, legs and neck. A medical report detailing the case of a 12-year-old boy who had been diagnosed with AFM noted that caring for patients with AFM often means involving an infectious disease physician, a neurologist, an orthotist, physical therapist and a speech therapist. The CDC has been monitoring the condition more closely since 2014, when there was a nationwide spike in cases.
Indeed, there has been an uptick in cases of AFM across the country.
This condition is not new, according to the CDC, but the agency began seeing an increase in cases four years ago, nearly all involving young children.
The CDC says that both the cause and long-term effects of the disease remain unknown.
There are several ways people can contract AFM, including exposure to toxins in the air, genetic factors or through viruses such as poliovirus, non-polio enteroviruses, adenoviruses, West Nile virus, Japanese encephalitis virus and Saint Louis encephalitis virus, according to the agency. "Among the people confirmed with AFM, CDC did not consistently detect EV-D68 in every patient". You can reduce the chance of mosquito bites by using insect repellent and keeping kids indoors during times when mosquitos are prevalent.
Dr. Jennifer McKay with Avera said prevention of this virus is easy - wash your hands and if your child is sick to keep them home from school.
"Even with an increase in cases since 2014, AFM remains a very rare condition". He said, "If one arm isn't working correctly, or one leg, or one side of the body, or if you notice an asymmetry in the face where one side looks very different than the other side, that child should be evaluated".
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