HUNTERSVILLE, NC (FOX 46 WJZY) - Months after two-year-old Ryan Epps contracted acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), a polio-like disease, he still has limited movement of his right arm. But, according to parents, it's better than it was.
It was just days after Ryan's birthday when his parents rushed him to the emergency room. A high fever was later discovered to be from an enterovirus-- a common thing-- that attacked his body in an uncommon way.
"It's like the same thing you'd see in a cold or hand, foot and mouth disease," said Roshonda Hipps.
But that virus led to an illness that has struck fear in parents nationwide: AFM. The symptoms resemble the polio virus, causing paralysis that can be temporary or permanent, depending on the case.
"We knew absolutely nothing about AFM," said Roshonda Epps.
Awareness of AFM has only grown in the last few weeks. The Epps family has been dealing with its effects since July, and didn't even get a determination of the condition until Ryan had been in the hospital for five days.
"There was a bunch of 'we're not really sure what it is'," said Roshanda Epps. "It's 1 in 100,000, so it's rare."
Ryan's father Reginald said they questioned how this could have happened to the young boy.
"Is it something we did?" said Reginald Epps. "Something we didn't catch in time? Where did it come from?"
Many of those questions remain unanswered.
The toddler remains as vibrant as ever, but still has limited use of his right arm. There is no treatment for AFM, but there are treatments for the symptoms to help deal with pain, and he's currently in a physical and occupational therapy program.
"Now he's able to put a little more weight on his arm," said Roshonda Epps. "And he's just been doing wonderful. It's small little steps, but it's huge to us."
The Epps family wants others to be aware of the symptoms.
"This could happen anywhere. We never thought it could happen to us," said Roshonda Epps. "It could happen anywhere and you will never see it coming."