Erin Olivera waited weeks for doctors to tell her why her youngest son was paralyzed.
Ten-month-old Lucian had started crawling oddly — his left leg dragging behind his right — and soon was unable to lift his head, following Erin only with his eyes.
Physicians ran test after test, and Erin began spending her nights on a hospital room couch. After Lucian fell asleep, during her only minutes alone between working and visiting her three other kids, she cried.
A terrifying reality was taking hold: Doctors wouldn’t be able to give her a diagnosis for her paralyzed child.
Hundreds of children across the country have shown up at hospitals unable to move their arms or legs. Dozens of kids have become paralyzed in the past few months alone.
They suffer from a mysterious illness that continues to alarm and puzzle scientists. This kind of sudden and devastating paralysis hasn’t been widespread since the days of polio. Lucian, one of the disease’s earliest victims, set off a hunt among doctors to discover its cause. [LACROSSETRIBUNE]
Health officials don’t yet know the reason for the children’s mysterious neurologic illnesses,saying they are investigating whether they have a rare condition known as acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM.
The Washington state Department of Health, Seattle Children’s, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are investigating the cluster of cases, all of which occurred within a month.
“At this point there isn’t evidence that would point to a single source of illness among these cases,” said Dr. Scott Lindquist, infectious disease epidemiologist at the state Health Department. “However, this investigation is just getting underway and we’re looking at all possibilities as we try to understand what might have contributed to these illnesses.” [BELLINGHAMHERALD]
On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that, as of August 2016, there have been 50 cases of confirmed acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) — a mysterious muscle weakness, similar to polio, across 24 states. That’s nearly double over 2015, when 21 cases for the whole year were reported.
AFM has been linked to a strain of enterovirus that’s now circulating again. Some doctors are warning this could be the same mysterious, polio-like illness detected in 2014 that paralyzed 120 children.
“August to October is typically when enteroviruses circulate,” says Dr. Kevin Messacar, pediatric infectious disease physician at Children’s Hospital Colorado. “We see more acute flaccid myelitis during that season and we do seem to be seeing an increase in the cases that have been reported.”
“Acute flaccid myelitis is a very rare complication of an illness,” says Messacar. “I think it’s important that we take it seriously because the effects of this condition appear to be long term and are disabling. [NBCNEWS]