BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - A mysterious polio-like disease has parents worried across the nation and in Alabama.
Since 2014, The Centers for Disease Control reported 386 confirmed cases of the disease acute flaccid myelitis (AFM).
“It affects the nerves and spinal cord and results in the paralysis of the limbs. It can paralyze an arm or leg,” said Dr. Edward Khan, Director of Disease Control for the Jefferson County Health Department.
Some symptoms of AFM include:
- Weakness and loss of muscle tone and reflexes in the arms or legs
- Facial droop or weakness
- Difficulty moving the eyes
- Drooping eyelids
- Difficulty swallowing
- Slurred speech
This is obviously scary for parents, including Carolynn Young who has four grandchildren in Birmingham.
“It’s a scary feeling to not know what it is and to attack your kids and not know how they feel.” Young said.
AFM is still very rare. It occurs in one out of a million of young people. Certain viruses like polio and West Nile may lead to AFM. Parents are advised to update polio vaccinations and protect against mosquito bites. The exact cause remains a mystery.
“The causality has been difficult. The proof has been difficult. It’s in the same family as polio but they never isolated it from polio either,” Dr. Khan said.
Still, parents want to know more.
"I would like to learn more about the situation or what is going on with the kids.”Young said.