What is acute flaccid myelitis? Causes,Signs and Symptoms

Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) is an uncommon but serious neurologic condition that affects a person’s nervous system, specifically the spinal cord. People with AFM have varying degrees of weakness and loss of muscle tone and reflexes in their arms and legs; this results in floppy limbs. AFM can lead to respiratory failure, paralysis, or even death. In rare cases, there are reports of long-term disability from AFM. As of August 2018, there were 38 confirmed cases of AFM across 16 states in the United States, including one confirmed case in Idaho.

Acute Flaccid Myelitis Overview

Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) is a rare but serious condition that affects a person’s nervous system, specifically the spinal cord. It causes weakness in one or more limbs and can cause loss of muscle tone and even paralysis. AFM can occur at any age, but it most often occurs in children.

Currently, there are no proven effective treatments for AFM; treatment focuses on managing symptoms and providing supportive care through speech, physical, occupational. And respiratory therapies as well as antibiotics to prevent infections. The CDC continues to actively investigate AFM cases and search for possible causes of illness in an effort to better understand how best to prevent AFM.

What Causes AFM(Acute flaccid myelitis)

Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) has been linked to many viral infections, including enteroviruses. Which can be common and often do not cause serious illness. Most of these enteroviruses are spread from person to person. However, it’s possible that some cases of AFM are caused by a virus similar to poliovirus.

These cases have occurred in children who had not been vaccinated against polio because they were born in a country where polio vaccination programs have not been established or were active but had recently stopped for some reason.

Another hypothesis about why AFM occurs is that it might be caused by other infections besides viruses, such as bacteria or parasites that affect how cells in your spinal cord work and communicate with each other.

Who Is at Risk For AFM(Acute flaccid myelitis)

Acute flaccid myelitis is a rare condition that affects a part of your nervous system called gray matter. This gray matter can be found in many places throughout your body, but it’s especially concentrated around your spinal cord. AFM specifically targets people between ages 2 and 32 who have a weak immune system, which could be caused by certain viruses or other illnesses.

Therefore, those at most risk are children younger than age 2 and young adults between ages 16 and 21 years old. You are not more likely to get AFM if you have a weakened immune system or if you have been vaccinated against certain diseases such as polio or measles.

A vaccine protects you from becoming ill with certain diseases; it does not cause illness or weaken your immune system.

Signs and Symptoms of AFM(Acute flaccid myelitis)

The most common signs and symptoms of AFM are weakness in one or more arms or legs. Other signs and symptoms may include: drooping face, difficulty swallowing, slurred speech, or blinking eyes.

Some people with AFM also have problems with vision loss, light sensitivity, weakness in arms and legs (motor function), and muscle pain. The most serious complications of AFM are respiratory failure which can require long-term ventilation support and even lead to death.

Treatment Options

There are no treatments available for AFM, but doctors may treat certain symptoms, such as pain or fever. Physicians and researchers continue to work on treatments such as (nervous system supplements). The CDC advises people who develop AFM to stay hydrated with oral fluids and avoid using a ventilator or other breathing machine if possible.

It’s important to remember that there are several other possible causes of similar symptoms, including viral infections like polio and West Nile virus, so if you think your child has been exposed to one of these illnesses see a doctor right away.

Prevention Tips

CDC recommends that to protect yourself and your family from AFM, you should: Wash your hands often with healthy soap and water for 20 seconds.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands. Avoid kissing, hugging, and sharing cups or eating utensils with people who are sick. Disinfect frequently touched surfaces such as toys and doorknobs.


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