Without warning, Carter Roberts's “playful, active, and healthy” lifestyle took a drastic turn in July.

According to NBC News, Carter, a three-year-old little boy from Chesterfield, Virginia, contracted a condition called acute flaccid myelitis (AFM).

The condition left Carter unable to move his arms or legs. In the course of a weekend, the three-year-old became paralyzed.

As the CDC reports, AFM is a condition similar to polio that affects the nervous system, specifically the spinal cord, and can result from a variety of causes, including viral infections.

AFM can cause sudden weakness in one or more arms or legs, as well as loss of muscle tone and a decrease in reflexes.

The number of AFM cases in children has reportedly spiked this year, with fifty confirmed cases as of August. The CDC states that the organization is working to identify the reason. According to NBC News:

“On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that, as of August 2016, there have been 50 cases of confirmed AFM across 24 states. That's nearly double over 2015, when 21 cases for the whole year were reported.”

AFM has been linked to a strain of enterovirus that could be the same “mysterious, polio-like illness” that paralyzed 120 children in 2014.

Image Credit: Center for Disease Control and Prevention
Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Dr. Kevin Messacar, a pediatric infectious disease physician at Children's Hospital Colorado, tells NBC News that AFM is a “very rare and complicated illness,” that needs to be taken very seriously, especially in late summer and early fall.

“August to October is typically when enteroviruses [like AFM] circulate. We see more acute flaccid myelitis [AFM] during that season and we do seem to be seeing an increase in the cases that have been reported.”

According to the CDC, the public can do their part to avoid spreading AFM by always practicing disease prevention steps. These can include:

  • Washing your hands frequently
  • Staying up-to-date on vaccines
  • Protecting yourself from mosquito bites
  • Avoiding the spread of germs by covering your mouth when you sneeze and cough and staying home from work or school when you are sick

As for little Carter, he can now move just one of his toes and only the left side of his face.

His mother, Robin, explains that Carter sticks out his tongue and blinks his eyes in order to answer questions. Thanks to the speech therapy, Carter is now able to say a few words.

“I got to hear him talk and he said just a handful of words and as a mom, it was the sweetest sound ever.”

Though she feels “robbed” that this happened to her son, Robin is hopeful that he will continue to make progress.