Acute Flaccid Myelitis (AFM)

Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) is a rare but serious condition that affects the nervous system. AFM presents with a sudden onset of localized limb weakness and most often affects children.

Symptoms include:

  • Sudden onset of arm or leg weakness 
  • Loss of muscle tone and reflexes
  • Facial weakness 
  • Drooping eyelids or trouble moving eyes
  • Trouble swallowing 
  • Slurred speech

In severe cases, individuals may experience respiratory distress and/or failure. 

If your child develops any of these symptoms, seek medical attention. 

The cause of the illness is unknown but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cites possible causes of AFM include viruses, environmental toxins and genetic diseases. According to the CDC, AFM can be difficult to diagnose since it shares many similar symptoms to other neurological diseases. The illness is confirmed through conducting an evaluation of a patient’s nervous system, labs and often an MRI. 

Treatment for AFM is on a case-by-case basis. Most often, physical and occupational therapy are required to help with limb weakness or paralysis caused by AFM. At this time there is no cure for AFM. 

While very rare, the US has seen an increase in cases since 2014. The CDC estimates that AFM affects less that one in a million people in the US every year. 

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