Mystery Illness Afflicting Children Across the U.S.A According to the CDC
A family’s ordeal raises threats that a rare mysterious children’s illness may be sweeping across the United States, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention announced Monday.
The Center said the disease, known as acute flaccid myelitis or AFM affects the spinal cord of young children with an average age of about seven, but it’s not known exactly what causes it. It peaked in 2014 with 120 cases, then dropped to 21 cases in 2015. However, this year there have already been 50 cases reported across 24 states.
Symptoms include limb weakness, facial droops, difficulty breathing and swallowing or slurred speech, according to the Center. Affected children are usually place on respiratory machine and about 85 per cent of them end up partially recovered but only three to date have been reported as fully recovered.
Sara Carson, who lives in suburban Chicago, says her daughter Laura was afflicted with the disease.
“With every new case you see, the pit of your stomach drops out again.” she told Today.
“You flash back to that moment in time when you’re sitting in the hospital room thinking you don’t know where the next day is going to take you, or the next hour or the next minute.”
Carson told Today four year old Laura was hit with the disease in August of 2014. She began complaining of a headache and by the next morning her breathing was rapid and shallow. Although she rushed her daughter to a hospital, she was told “everything was okay” so she took Laura back home. However, began to suffer from fatigue, lethargy and tremors.
“When she woke up the next morning she asked why the pillows were stacking themselves and why there was two of me, and at that point I realized she was having double vision.” Carson said.
Again she rushed her daughter to the hospital, only to be told it was nothing to worry about. A frantic Carson said she refused to believe that doctor’s diagnosis and took Laura to another hospital where she was quickly admitted. By next morning she was “like a limp doll.” Her head drooped and her arms just fell to the side. The four year old ended up spending a total of 25 days in the hospital. Throughout that time she was completely bedridden and unable to walk. At her worst point she could only move parts of her left arm and left leg.
“I kept looking at the doctors and saying, she going to be okay, right? They would look back at me and refused to answer the question.” Carson stated.
“It seemed as if nobody had a clue about what was going on… it was fear because you don’t know if at some point if this going to stop and we have to look at losing our daughter.”
Carson said a MRI scan revealed lesions on Laura’s spine which is a common symptom of AFM. The doctors began giving her steroids and the girl began making a series of small but hopeful gains towards being healthy again. After nearly a month in the hospital at the same a bunch of new AFM cases were arriving. It took two years of physical, speech and occupational therapy to bring her back to where she can play again and go to school. However, Laura still has some problems with the right side of her body.
The Center said the best prevention against young children getting the disease is to wash their hands frequently, make sure they have received all their vaccinations and be careful about mosquito bites as the West Nile virus is known to be linked to AFM.