A man in Michigan may have the rare, polio-like illness that has been affecting children across the country in recent months

By Char Adams
October 17, 2018 10:31 AM
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A man in Michigan may have the rare, polio-like illness that has been affecting children across the country in recent months, leaving them with paralyzed limbs and even linked to one child’s death, reports say.

Michigan officials are looking into a possible case of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) in an unidentified man in the state, a spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services told the Detroit Free Press. An official would not say where the man lives or release any further details about his condition, according to WEYI.

AFM is a rare, polio-like condition that affects a person’s nervous system and causes weakness in the arms or legs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC has confirmed 62 reports of AFM in 22 states, Of the 62 confirmed cases, the average age of patients is just 4 years old, CDC officials said during a press conference — 90 percent of cases are in children 18 or younger.

“We have not been able to find the cause for the majority of these AFM cases,” Dr. Nancy Messonnier, the director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the CDC, said during the press conference.

“There’s a lot we don’t know about AFM, and I am frustrated that despite our efforts we haven’t been able to identify the cause of this mystery illness …The number we’re reporting today is substantially larger than in previous months this year.”

The illness causes paralysis and is similar to polio — which is considered extinct in the U.S. — in that is impacts a person’s nervous system and spinal cord. The unexpected spike in AFM cases “is a mystery” to health officials, Messonnier said.

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Cami Abernathy, of Cartersville, Georgia, previously told PEOPLE that her 3-year-old son, Carter Abernathy, was diagnosed with the illness after “his arm just quit working” in August.

“We were devastated,” Cami said of the moments she and her family got the diagnosis, noting that Carter had been hospitalized for at least five days before doctors determined he has the illness. “We were worried and scared.”

In the weeks since the diagnosis, Carter began physical therapy to restore the use of his left arm. But Cami said she doesn’t know what the future holds for her little boy.

“It’s changed our lives. We’ve had to learn how to make life easier for Carter with only one arm that has full movement,” she previously told PEOPLE, adding that Carter has “adapted very well.” “Right now we’re kind of lost because we don’t know if [his arm] will get better or if the progress we have seen is all we’ll see.”