AFM (Acute Flaccid Myelitis)


AFM (Acute Flaccid Myelitis) is a rare but serious condition. It affects the nervous system, specifically the spinal cord, which causes the muscles and reflexes in the body to become weak. This condition is not new. However, the large number of AFM cases reported since 2014 is new. The risk of getting AFM varies by age and year. There have been increases in AFM cases every two years since 2014 and mostly in young children. Still, CDC estimates that less than one to two in a million children in the United States will get AFM every year. Anyone can get AFM or neurological conditions similar to it, and there are different causes, such as viruses, toxins, and genetic disorders. There are also no known ways to prevent AFM. The CDC has been thoroughly investigating the AFM cases that have occurred since 2014, when the first large number of cases being reported was noted.

Most patients will have sudden onset of limb weakness and loss of muscle tone and reflexes. Some patients, in addition to the limb weakness, will experience:

  • Facial droop/weakness
  • Drooping eyelids
  • Difficulty moving the eyes
  • Difficulty with swallowing or slurred speech

Numbness or tingling is rare in patients with AFM, though some patients have pain in their arms or legs. Some patients with AFM may be unable to pass urine. The most severe symptom of AFM is respiratory failure, which can happen when the muscles involved with breathing become weak. This can require urgent ventilator support (breathing machines). If you or your child develops any of these symptoms, you should seek medical care right away.


Andrea jews | editorial manager

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