This mysterious illness, is called acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), which shows similarities to polio. Carter showed his first symptoms of this illness, when he vomited and woke up the next morning with a fever of 99 degrees. Being symptoms akin to a common cold, his mother, Robin Roberts, didn’t take it as seriously at first, until what happened the next day.1
She saw him lying on his room floor saying, ‘Mommy, I can’t get up. Help me.’
He couldn’t stand on his own two feet, his neck seemed to tilt his head back, not forward and he seemed to have no motor control over his arm either.
After being admitted to the hospital, he slowly lost control over his legs and other muscles in a matter of days and couldn’t breathe properly.
Which was when they diagnosed him with AFM, which was spreading like wildfire at the time, with close to 30 new cases in
Although, it was slowly becoming an epidemic, the causes, treatment and prevention methods were still a mystery, mostly happening to children but occasionally also affecting adults.
Although the CDC made sure most American states were on a BOLO (be on the look-out) and reported any cases they found symptomatic of AFM, they used the nation-wide data they received to form a pattern.
From the date, they saw that since 2014, over a 100 cases were confirmed, in 17 states. It affected children of an average age of 7, starting with symptoms of a fever, respiratory disease and finally leading to paralysis and a need to be supported with breathing apparatus. Close to 85% of the children diagnosed with AFM recovered partially, but only three recovered fully on their own.
There was a rising alarm nationwide among bewildered doctors and parents as well, which slowly led to an increasing
Likewise, intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG), was also being suggested as it has helped in treating some similar neurological viral infectious diseases.
The suggested temporary medicines given were Prozac. But the improvement seen from all this took close to a year and was only slight.
Within sometime, the cause for AFM was closely linked to an enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) which broke-out about the same time as the first few cases of AFM in the US. What’s more is only some kids with AFM seemed to have a strain of this virus in their breathing channels.
Although a loose link, AFM was still considered a very rare disease. Nevertheless, physicians started to look for ways to combat EV-D68 to see if it does cause AFM.
The chair of neurology at the University of Colorado’s School of Medicine, named, Kenneth Tyler, carried out experiments
The aim was to study, how they were related to each other and find out why it harmed the patients motor control, spinal cord and muscles to see if there are more therapies besides, IVIG.
Being called the era of the information boom, many parents like Carter’s mother, were frustrated that so little was known about their children’s condition. What’s more is some doctors were still uninformed about the seriousness of the case which made it even harder to handle. Even a little confirmation on how bad it could get or if it is cancer or will the kids be disabled for life, were still left unanswered.
Despite that, some kids underwent a tracheotomy, a surgery to widen the trachea and allow for better air flow in the breathing passages as a temporary fix to it.
This lack of information and knowledge, even inspired Facebook owner, Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, to spend $3 billion to upgrade the nation’s scientific progress and discover as well as
Scientists are still conducting various experiments and discovering more and more ways to reduce its effects. Some prevention advice for now is said to be observing general hygiene by washing hands and eating washed fruits and vegetables.
What started in 2014 is still going on till today, but at a slower pace, although AFM has zero reported deaths.