Georgia family warns of rare illness that left 3-year-old partially paralyzed

BARTOW COUNTY, Ga. — A sudden spike in a rare illness that leaves children partially paralyzed has parents and doctors nationwide puzzled.

The disease called acute flaccid myelitis, or "AFM," is similar to polio and typically starts with symptoms associated with common cold.

Channel 2's Sophia Choi spoke with Cartersville mother Cami Abernathy, who said her son Carter Abernathy showed signs of the disease in August.

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"We were terrified. We had never heard of it. The doctors and nurses at Children's didn't really have any idea," she told Choi.

Carter still has very little movement in his left arm but he is regaining some of it from intense therapy.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says AFM is rare and that only one in a million people get it. Since last month, six children in Minnesota have had symptoms.

Carter is one of 362 cases the CDC has been aware of since August 2014.

"He had went to use the restroom.  And he was able to pull his underwear down just fine, but two seconds later when he went to pull it up, his hands wouldn't grip it to pull it up. So we knew something was wrong," Cami Abernathy told Channel 2.

Carter spent five days at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta-Scottish Rite, where he received intense steroid infusions. His family believes that helped stop the spread of paralysis.

"It was just scary. Where is it coming from, how do we stop it?" Carter's grandmother Kim Harriss told Choi. "I want to raise awareness because it seems it is gaining momentum."