Family talks about son’s diagnosis of rare Polio-like disease

Family opens up about son's battle with AFM

HUNTERSVILLE, NC (WBTV) - A polio-like disease called Acute Flaccid Myelitis (AFM) has been found in kids throughout the country. North Carolina has three cases - the closest to our area reported in Huntersville. South Carolina so far has just one case.

Symptoms include parts of the body being paralyzed and doctors don’t know why this is happening. As of now, there is no sure cure.

Patients have been given IV, steroids or are going through physical therapy to be nursed back to better health. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention are looking into nearly 130 cases across the nation.

"Started out as fever. Something we just thought we could get rid of with medicine," said Reginald Epps, the father of a 2-year-old boy who was diagnosed.

Reginald's son, Ryan Epps, was diagnosed in July when he couldn't move his right arm.

“Literally flaccid from the wrist to the shoulder,” said Ryan's mother, Roshonda.

The average patient is 4 years old and 90 percent of confirmed cases are below the age of 18, according to Nancy Messonnier, Director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

"What is this? That is all we could think while we were there," said Roshonda Epps. "We do not know enough about it. We do not know if it will come back.”

According to the CDC, AFM is a rare but serious condition (less than one in a million people). The condition is not new, according to the CDC website, but instead an increase of cases first reported in 2014.

Messonnier said the rare disease affects the spinal cord.

"Frustrating trying to figure out why his arm was not moving," said Epps. “When you see something is off or not right with your child, trust your gut. There is no such thing as a stupid question.”

Doctors cannot find a unifying diagnosis and there are no geographical patterns of the disease.

“What made me better was just watching him. Watching how he reacted. His spirit was up and he was still the same Ryan just with limited mobility,” said Reginald Epps.

(Ben Williamson | WBTV)

The CDC has been investigating AFM since they were made aware of an increased number of people with this condition in August 2014.

“We have what we have, and the only thing we can do now is move forward and try and piece it all together," said Roshonda. “I really can’t put into words what it is like not knowing.”

Ryan had a 5-day steroid treatment and has physical therapy. He is recovering well, but his family has not been told if the disease.

They are hoping their story can spread awareness and find a cure.

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