Until a few weeks ago, Cami Abernathy had never heard of acute flaccid myelitis.
In September, her 3-year-old son Carter became a likely case of the rare but serious neurological disorder that can cause polio-like illness, especially in infants and teenagers.
His case and others who like it across the country have affected health officials.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recently reported about it year, it has confirmed 62 patients with AFM of 127 suspected cases in 22 states.
Of the confirmed cases, the average age is 4. More than 90 percent are in children ages 18 and younger, according to the CDC. 19659006] "We all knew that something was wrong, but doctors and nurses always told us that he was well or well," said Abernathy, a teacher in Rydal, with her husband and two young children Near Cartersville lives.
Carter's problem began earlier, about a week after the fight d a respiratory disease. In August, he went to the bathroom and, when he was done, had difficulty pulling up his pants.
"He said:" My hand will not work "and that his left arm was" sick "," said Abernathy [1
After a series of doctor and hospital visits and one after the other, the doctors finally said it was most likely a case of AFM, she said.
"Words of doctors like" bizarre "," weird "," weird "and" weird "just cause panic and that's what it has done in us," said Abernathy.
She said it was stumbling around in the dark, and she found it disturbing that some doctors seemed to be too.
"They did not know much more than we did," she said. "We were worried because we did not know if it would go on or how it would affect him later, we were worried about his future and whether it would affect our other son."
He is undergoing physiotherapy now, and Abernathy said the family has improved a lot.
Dr. Sumit Verma, medical director of the Neuromuscular Program at Children's Healthcare in Atlanta, said CHOA has seen nearly a dozen cases in recent years
"Unfortunately, there is no cure for acute flaccid myelitis," he said Statement . "However, symptomatic management is available and rehabilitation could improve function and quality of life."
He said the illness could hit a healthy child "without notice," but warns that it is still extremely rare.
He suggests that if parents notice that a child has weakness in their limbs, it is important to seek immediate medical attention
He and others say that parents take the best precautions to ensure that she and her children do basic things to stay healthy
These steps include washing their hands, covering their coughs, staying home when they are sick, and ensuring that they are vaccinated.
According to health authorities, symptoms may include sudden muscle weakness in the arms or legs following a respiratory disease. Other symptoms include weakness or stiffness in the neck; Drooling eyelids or facial weakness, difficulty swallowing, and slurred speech.
In Georgia, there were an estimated three confirmed or probable cases of AFM this year with two possible other cases being investigated, according to the Georgia Department
And while the figure in Georgia is low, it is an increase over several of the previous years. In 2015 and 2017, there was one confirmed or probable case and in 2016 there were five
AFM was reported to Georgia last summer, but according to CDC recommendations, the state has asked physicians to report suspected cases since autumn 2014, when the condition was recognized at national level.
What worries parents is that health officials still have not identified a single cause of the disease. Possible factors include viral infections such as enterovirus and West Nile virus, environmental toxins and a condition in which the body's immune system attacks and destroys body tissue that is defective for foreign material.
Currently, poliovirus is not the cause of AFM cases, according to the CDC. Based on previous years, most cases occur in late summer and autumn.
The disease can lead to long-lasting and even permanent disability. AFM acts specifically on the area of the spinal cord, called gray matter, and causes muscles and reflexes to weaken. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases of the CDC, earlier this week.
The reason why we do not know about AFM – and I am frustrated that, despite all our efforts, we have not been able to identify the cause of this mysterious disease – we continue to investigate the clinical picture of AFM cases "Understandably," Messonnier said, "Despite extensive laboratory testing, we did not identify which pathogen or immune response caused arm or leg weakness and paralysis in most patients. We do not know who has a higher risk for developing AFM or why they are at greater risk.
Jennifer Peteet's son Reid, now 3 years old, fell ill in the fall of 2016.  Peteet von Winder said Reid developed a cold and could not get up a few days later They hurried him to the emergency department of Children's Healthcare in Atlanta, but doctors could not pinpoint the cause, at which time Peteet said her son could not move down from the neck.  He was diagnosed with pneumonia. "I wonder today if she (the ambulance at the time) heard my complaints that he could not move," she said. "I was made to believe that he was so bad he got so weak. "His breathing worsened.
" We knew something was wrong, "said Peteet, a member of a Facebook group of hundreds of parents around the world whose children from A FM are concerned. "Every child is misdiagnosed." Reid, she said, was tested for various viruses, but the tests came back negative.
A few years ago, her mother had mentioned that she is paralyzing children, "but it went in one ear and the other," said Peteet. "That was until it hit me straight in the face – I just wish parents had more information – the very challenging part is that children like Reid are too young to communicate what's going on, and doctors do who knows what it could have been different. "
Doctors finally diagnosed AFM after an MRI. Today, Reid, who has been undergoing inpatient rehabilitation for months on end and rehabilitated on an outpatient basis, may slip on the floor, but must use a wheelchair to get around. He can put a limited amount of weight on his legs.
"He has come a long way, but everyone doubts that he will fully recover," said Peteet.
She wants parents and doctors to become more aware of signs, symptoms, and treatments.
"My hope for medical professionals is that with early awareness, intervention and advocacy, our affected children will live a long life, not defined by AFM alone," said Peteet. "My message to newly affected families is that, although the path will be long, there is hope through therapy and surgery, though there is still no cure."
ACUTE FLACCID MYELITIS
AFM is a rare but serious neurological disorder.
Symptoms include weakness or paralysis of the legs and arms, drooping eyelids or facial weakness, difficulty swallowing, or slurred speech.
Health officials urge parents If these symptoms are observed, seek medical attention immediately.
Sources: CDC, Georgia Department of Public Health