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Paralysis-causing illness on the rise in Washington

Another child in Washington has contracted an illness that causes muscle weakness.

Health officials are now investigating nine possible casesof acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), including one child from Bellingham who died Monday in Seattle. The latest child hospitalized is from Snohomish County.

Two of the nine cases have been confirmed as the rare AFM illness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are testing the rest.

AFM has been compared to polio. AFM symptoms range from having weakness in one limb to losing movement in all arms and legs.

It's rare, and a variety of germs can cause it. Julie Graham with the state health department said those germs will cause a common cold in some people, but AFM illness in others.

Graham: "We don't know why an individual person has such a reaction to a common type of germ or illness. So the best advice is to really just try to stay healthy, and then if your child experiences limb weakness or paralysis get help immediately."

She said AFM is not contagious, but some of the germs that cause it are.

There are now cases in King, Franklin, Pierce, Snohomish and Whatcom counties.  Graham said typically there are one or two cases a year in Washington, compared with nine in 2016 so far. Nationwide, 89 people have been diagnosed with AFM this year.

She said some people will fully recover from the illness and some will be permanently paralyzed. There is no specific treatment for it.