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Ninth case of polio-like illness confirmed in Washington state

A boy in Spokane County, Washington, is the ninth person in the state with a confirmed case of a rare syndrome that can cause varying degrees of paralysis.

The boy, under age 10, has acute flaccid myelitis, also referred to as AFM. 

The other children from Washington who were diagnosed with the syndrome this fall range in age from 3 to 14 and come from King, Pierce, Snohomish, Whatcom and Franklin counties.

AFM cases have not been limited to Washington. In October, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention pediatrician Dr. Manisha Patel told CBS News, “We do have an uptick in cases of acute flaccid myelitis in 2016.”

Children in Washington sick with mysterious polio-like illness

As of September 2016, 89 people in 33 states were confirmed to have AFM, according to the CDC. Even with the increased rates, AFM is still rare — striking about one in a million people.

Ninety percent of cases have been in children, said Patel, the acute flaccid myelitis team lead at the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the CDC.

Health officials say AFM can occur as a result of a variety of germs including enteroviruses, West Nile virus and adenoviruses. The condition affects the nervous system, primarily the spinal cord. 

Its symptoms — arm or leg weakness or varying degrees of paralysis — are likened to those caused by polio (which was eradicated in the U.S. thanks to the polio vaccine). Still, the CDC reports that the cause of the recent cases is unclear and it’s not known how to prevent it.

The CDC is working with local health officials to investigate the cases in Washington state and elsewhere in the U.S.