More children getting sick from rare illness leaving many paralyzed, CDC says

WASHINGTON — The Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it's investigating 252 potential cases of a polio-like disease that partially paralyzes children. The new number shows an increase of 33 patients since last week.

So far, the agency said, there are 90 confirmed cases of acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM.

Parents in Washington, D.C., who never thought they'd be walking the halls of Congress, are pushing lawmakers to do something about it.

"Hayden got sick in 2014, a month before the CDC even came up with the name AFM," Heather Werdal said.

Werdal traveled from Bremerton, Washington, and took other parents from across the country whose children suffer from the mysterious disease with her.

Werdal's son, Hayden, now 17, is still mostly paralyzed from the neck down.


"We worry that this could explode into more cases in the future. And we don't want other families to go through this," Werdal said.

Katie and JP Bustamante's son Alex died just 5 months ago.

"I literally watched him just melt before my eyes as the day went on," Katie Bustamante said.

The families are meeting with members of Congress and with officials at the CDC and National Institutes of Health, pushing for better tracking of the illness and more research dollars.

"This is nothing new. This has been going on for years and they have done nothing," Bustamante said.

In a conference call with reporters Tuesday, CDC officials said they still do not know much about the long-term effects of AFM.

"It's very frustrating to us. Four years after our son got sick, no one at the CDC has talked to any of our families, so how do you track the recovery in a new illness when you're not talking to any of the families?" Werdal asked.

The CDC said it is increasing its network of neurologists, its disease detectives, to investigate and track cases.