Columbus, GA child confirmed with rare polio-like illness

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - News Leader 9 is the first to confirm with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, a Columbus child has a confirmed case of acute flaccid myelitis, a rare condition known as AFM.

Ericka Palacios says her 2-year-old daughter, Abigail, was a healthy and happy baby - but two months ago, Abigail’s health took a turn for the worst.

“They had no idea what it was.”

Abigail pictured on a ventilator, undergoing care in ICU at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.
Abigail pictured on a ventilator, undergoing care in ICU at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. (Ericka Palacios)

After several local hospital visits, Abigail was transferred and rushed to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. She was put on a ventilator and her was condition getting worse.

“Her whole body was paralyzed," said Palacios.

After multiple tests, doctors confirmed Abigail has acute flaccid myelitis, a rare condition known as AFM.

“No parent should have to go through seeing their child not being able to breath on their own," said Palacios.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describe AFM, as a serious condition causing weakness in the arms or legs—similar to polio. It affects a patient’s nervous system. “Some of the symptoms mimic some of the other neurological conditions so its difficult to diagnose," said Pamela Kirkland, the communications director for the West Central Health District of Columbus.

A graph explains the number of cases of AFM since 2014.
A graph explains the number of cases of AFM since 2014. ((Source: WTVM))

According to the CDC, AFM case numbers have fluctuated over the past four years and to date, out of 155 cases they’re investigating, 62 of them are confirmed AFM cases across 22 states in 2018. Of those cases, 90 percent are in kids 18 and younger and the average age is 4-years-old. The long-term prognosis and recovery for each patient varies.

“Weakness or loss of muscle tone in their arms and legs, or facial droopiness, difficulty swallowing. The one thing that can be dangerous is because it affects the respiratory system," says Kirkland.

With no known cause or treatment for AFM, the CDC says doctors are continuing to research the condition.

After over a month in the hospital, Abigail is back home in Columbus continuing physical therapy. Her left arm is still paralyzed. She is using a wheelchair, but her spirits are high.

To learn more from the CDC about AFM click here.

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