Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) is a rare condition that affects the nervous system and can be caused by viral infections.
Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) is a rare condition that affects the nervous system and can be caused by viral infections. Unfortunately, this illness is on the rise in the United States. Check out these 4 facts about AFM to help keep you up-to-date on this concerning condition.
AFM affects the nervous system
specifically the spinal cord
and can result in the following symptoms:
According to the CDC, there were 108 people in 36 states across the United States with confirmed AFM as of October 2016.1 Data show that most cases have occurred in children. AFM can be caused by several viruses including enteroviruses (polio and non-polio), West Nile virus (virus transmitted through mosquitos), and adenoviruses (respiratory illnesses). Other potential causes include environmental toxins, genetic disorders, and Guillain
However, the exact cause of the recent AFM outbreak has not been determined. There was also a spike in AFM cases in 2014 that was associated with a national outbreak of severe respiratory illness caused by enterovirus D68 (EV-D68).1 The CDC is actively monitoring for patients with AFM and encourages healthcare providers to report cases to state health departments. The CDC is testing specimens including stool, blood, and cerebrospinal fluid from individuals with confirmed AFM to investigate the illness. Additionally, the CDC is collaborating with medical facilities to review MRI scans from the past 10 years to determine the number of AFM cases that occurred before 2014.1
Unfortunately, there is no specific treatment for AFM, just supportive care to alleviate the symptoms. Neurologists can treat patients on a case-by-case basis. Children experiencing sudden weakness in the arms or legs should be evaluated immediately.
AFM is currently considered a mysterious illness; however, there are strategies that may help to prevent the condition. Encourage patients and their families to keep up-to-date with all recommended vaccines. Educate patients to use mosquito repellent to prevent West Nile virus. Standing water from nearby property should be removed to decrease the number of mosquitoes. It is also important to prevent the spread of viruses with the following tips:
Educate patients to scrub their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds when performing the following tasks:1