PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Cases continue to grow of the mystery disease that is causing polio-like symptoms in children. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Monday there are now 80 confirmed cases in 25 states.
New numbers from the CDC also says there are 219 potential cases under investigation. Patients have a wide-degree of symptoms and some are finding help with nerve transfer surgery.
Brian Noblitt says it only took one week for his son Brandon’s health to deteriorate from what appeared to be a cold to being unable to use his legs.
“I knew then something was very wrong,” said Noblitt.
Brandon was diagnosed with acute flaccid myelitis — or AFM — and was wheelchair bound.
“While all your friends are running around and playing, it’s hard to just sit in the bed and do nothing,” said Brandon.
That was two years ago when the family turned to a doctor who specializes in treating AFM.
“My goal with the children with AFM was to restore hip stability and then motion of the upper legs,” said Dr. Amy Moore.
One treatment is a nerve transfer, which is what helped 4-year-old Scarlett Camburn, of Havertown, regain the use of her arm after the surgery at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Brandon had the same operation on his leg.
“I was able to move a nerve that wiggles the toes to the hips,” said Dr. Moore.
The nerve transfer surgery on Brandon was 14 months ago.
Now, Brandon says he only uses his wheelchair to play basketball.
“It [has] been amazing. Thanks to Ms. Dr. Moore, I can go outside, play with my brothers,” said Brandon.
Doctors say children typically respond best to this type of nerve transfer surgery because the nerves grow back faster and it’s most successful within nine months of diagnosis.
“My intention is to give these families hope that there are options for their child if they get this horrible diagnosis,” said Dr. Moore.
There are still a lot of unknowns about this disease that tends to appear in the fall every other year.
The cause is unknown, but it’s believed to be related to a virus. It is also unknown why some patients recover and others have prolonged effects.