6yo Washington State boy may have died from mysterious paralysis-causing disease

© Marvin Gentry
A 6-year-old boy has died in Bellingham, Washington, after he was suspected of contracting a paralyzing disease, acute flaccid myelitis (AFM). The boy was one of eight cases being treated at Seattle Children’s Hospital.

Two weeks ago, Daniel Ramirez was sent to the hospital with cold symptoms and dizziness.

“He was slurring his words and acting like he was drunk, just drooling everywhere,” the boy’s mother, Marijo De Guzman, told KOMO TV.

“When we got to the hospital, within a couple of hours, he was basically paralyzed. He couldn’t move or anything,” said his father, Jose Ramirez.

“We talked to the doctors…and they said it could be AFM or it could be a worse case of AFM. They’re not sure,” De Guzman told the news outlet. “He’s dying. He’s dying. We pretty much the news…they can’t help him anymore.”

By Sunday night, Daniel was dead.

The other children admitted to Seattle Children’s hospital over the past six weeks range from 3 to 14 years old.

Doctors think Daniel and the other children may have contracted AFM, but it hasn’t been confirmed yet.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have seen a spike in AFM this year, with 50 cases reported in 24 states. The health agency said it is a rare illness that anyone can get.

“It affects a person’s nervous system, specifically the spinal cord. AFM can result from a variety of causes, including viral infections,” the CDC said in early October.
Washington State had no cases of the disease last year, and only two in 2014.

AFM causes damage that, in severe cases can result in temporary or permanent paralysis. The CDC said the syndrome has a variety of causes, including enterovirus D68.

Symptoms include facial droop or weakness, droopy eyelids, difficulty swallowing and slurred speech. There is no specific treatment for AFM.

During an outbreak in 2014, more than 100 children in 34 states developed polio-like paralysis in an arm or a leg.

A study published in the British medical journal The Lancet said a strain of enterovirus D68 is probably the leading culprit.

Researchers at the University of California in San Francisco used genetic sequences obtained from the virus, which were cultured from 25 children with limb paralysis in Colorado and California between November 2013 and 2014. They found the viruses were genetically very similar, sharing mutations found in the polio virus genome, but they also identified a novel strain of enterovirus D68 that they called B1 and identified as emerging four years ago.

The study showed that not every child infected with the strain developed paralysis. The CDC still doesn’t know what causes the disease.