Florida toddler hospitalized with paralyzing illness affecting kids across the country

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (WSVN) — A toddler in north Florida is fighting a rare polio-like virus, which has spread to 22 states in the past few months.

Three-year-old Aamira Faircloth is currently being treated in the ICU at Wolfson Children’s Hospital in Jacksonville for what doctors are calling acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say there are 62 confirmed cases nationwide, with another 65 illnesses still being investigated. AFM affects the nervous system and causes weakness and even paralysis, with some children needing to be put on ventilators.

About 90 percent of the cases are children who have suffered muscle weakness or paralysis, including in the face, neck, back or limbs. The symptoms tend to occur about a week after they had a fever and respiratory illness.

“It’s nerve wracking. It’s stressful. She can’t understand. She can’t get out of bed and do things for herself,” Aamira’s mother, Reba Faircloth, told Action News Jax.

Faircloth said her daughter’s symptoms progressed rapidly, with the toddler first showing signs of an illness last Thursday. By Sunday, little Aamira could no longer walk.

Doctors told the family their little girl could be in the hospital for up to three weeks to treat her symptoms, but there is no cure for AFM.

“Some of the symptoms may slowly decrease, but often they are permanent or there is residual permanent damage,” Dr. Jose Irazuzta with Wolfson Children’s Hospital told Action News Jax.

The CDC said previous spikes in cases happened in 2014 and 2016, noting it appears to be following an every-other-year pattern. About 120 confirmed cases were reported in 2014. Another 149 were reported in 2016. In 2015 and 2017, the counts of reported illnesses were far lower.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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