Jacksonville toddler hospitalized with polio-like illness

Acute flaccid myelitis confirmed in 22 states, including Florida, Georgia

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A toddler has been hospitalized at Wolfson Children's Hospital with acute flaccid myelitis, a polio-like illness affecting children nationwide, a representative for the Jacksonville hospital confirmed Tuesday to News4Jax.

Aamira Faircloth, 3, was admitted to the hospital Sunday and was in the intensive care unit Wednesday as doctors ran different tests and tried to treat the condition. 

Reba Faircloth, the toddler's mother, told News4Jax her daughter has always been an energetic, playful girl and it all happened so quickly.

"Very healthy, just, like, running around doing anything, getting into everything and then just 'bam.' It was so fast,'" Faircloth said. "It was, like, 'What is going on?'"

One week ago, Faircloth said, Aamira started getting sick, running a fever and throwing up. Her mother said her symptoms kept getting worse and, by the weekend, she started losing function in her arms and legs. 

"She couldn't hold herself up and everything. I came to the emergency room Sunday, so pretty much from Wednesday to Sunday. It was fast," Faircloth said. "Very fast." 

Since then, Aamira has been in a bed in the hospital's intensive care unit.

"She tells me, 'Mommy, I want to get down,' or 'Hold me.' I can't," Faircloth said. "It's a lot."

Doctors diagnosed Aamira with AFM. The disease attacks the nervous system, weakening the body's muscles and reflexes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says symptoms include arm/leg weakness, facial drooping, difficulty moving the eyes and trouble swallowing.

AFM is still a mystery to health care officials. 

"If we knew what causes it, we could treat it," said Dr. Mobeen Rathore, chief of infectious diseases at Wolfson Children's Hospital. "So we can provide supportive therapy and make sure that there are no complications. That is the frustrating part."

Faircloth said she wants other parents to be aware. 

"If you see symptoms, like, they are saying their arms are hurting or they are not using them and everything, just come to the emergency room," Faircloth said. "The longer you wait, (it) could be more worse than it is."

Doctors told Faircloth it is good she brought her daughter in so quickly. They said Aamira will probably be in the hospital for another two to three weeks.

Her mother said she probably won’t be 100-percent back to herself but, through physical therapy, she is hoping for the best.

Wolfson Children's Hospital wants to make sure parents know this is not an outbreak. AFM is extremely rare, but if your child shows any symptoms, take them to a doctor immediately. 

At least 62 cases have been confirmed in 22 states this year, and at least 65 additional illnesses in those states are being investigated, according to numbers released Tuesday by CDC. That does not include the case being treated at Wolfson Children's Hospital. 

On Tuesday, News4Jax spoke with the mother of a 5-year-old boy who has been suffering from AFM for two years. The once-healthy child now relies on a wheelchair to get around, a ventilator to breathe and a feeding tube to eat. 

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