Toddler paralyzed overnight as acute flaccid myelitis fears grow nationwide

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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What You Need to Know: Acute Flaccid Myelitis

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

A Georgia mother said her 2-year-old went to bed sick and woke up paralyzed from the neck down.

It's the latest in a series of mysterious illnesses that are baffling doctors. Two young patients were recently treated at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite Hospital after they fell ill and then woke up partially paralyzed.

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Doctors are still working to figure out what causes acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM, but they say the rare condition is similar to polio, in that it can cause muscle weakness or partial paralysis.

Like polio, doctors believe AFM is caused by a virus, but the specific virus is not yet known.

Related: Acute flaccid myelitis: CDC sees rise in cases, seasonal pattern to polio-like illness

Erica Palacios, the mother of 2-year-old Abigail, said one moment she was a healthy child who came down with a double ear infection and fever. A few days later, she said, her daughter woke up paralyzed from the neck down.

Doctors diagnosed Abigail with AFM.

“It’s a rare occurrence its one in a million, in a million,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director.

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A 2-year-old was diagnosed with acute flaccid myelitis after she went to bed sick and woke up paralyzed from the neck down.

A 2-year-old was diagnosed with acute flaccid myelitis after she went to bed sick and woke up paralyzed from the neck down.

Combined ShapeCaption
A 2-year-old was diagnosed with acute flaccid myelitis after she went to bed sick and woke up paralyzed from the neck down.

Across the country,  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 62 confirmed cases of AFM in 22 states and 93 possible cases.

"It's really heartbreaking. No parent should ever have to experience that and what makes it worse, it's not the tubes, it's not the treatments, what makes is worse is not knowing what caused it,” Palacios said.

There were five cases reported in Georgia in 2016.

Doctors said the West Nile Virus may be the cause in some of the cases.

“It’s a very frustrating situation,” Fauci said. “We do not know definitively what it is, although there is a suspicion, a strong suspicion that it is associated with a particular type of virus that we recognize.”

More information on AFM, including what the CDC is doing about the illness, is at WSBTV.com.

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