HomeHealth Topics A to ZAcute Flaccid Myelitis (AFM): What you need to know
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Acute Flaccid Myelitis (AFM): What you need to know

By Don N Seidman, MD

As of October 12, 2018, a reported ten cases of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), a rare, polio-like illness, has been identified in Northern Illinois since mid-September 2018. The cases have not yet been confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, but are being actively investigated. In addition to the cases being reported in Illinois, 38 cases have been confirmed in 16 states across the country in 2018.

DuPage Medical Group Pediatrician, Dr. Don Seidman, shares what you should know about AFM.

What is AFM?

AFM is a syndrome, and is not something thought to be spread easily from person to person. More likely it is brought on by an individual’s reaction to a respiratory infection, leading to acute inflammation in their nerve cells which impacts their ability to function properly. Often the exact cause cannot be identified.

How common is AFM?

AFM is a very rare infection, only developing in less than one in a million people.

Who is at risk to develop AFM?

AFM primarily affects children and young adults. 

What are the common symptoms?

AFM presents with the sudden onset of weakness in the limbs, partial paralysis, difficulty swallowing, facial droop or slurred speech, typically following having had symptoms of a common cold or other non-specific viral respiratory infections.

How is AFM transmitted and what can you prevent AFM?

Your best line of defense is to practice good hygiene and infection prevention techniques. This includes thorough hand washing, limiting exposure to sick individuals, and monitoring for symptoms. Since the polio virus may lead to AFM, making sure you are up-to-date on your polio vaccine is prudent.

How is AFM treated, and what are the long-term effects, if any?

Currently there is no known treatment for AFM. Treatments are available to manage symptoms and physical therapy can also help regain mobility and muscle strength. The long-term effects of AFM are not currently known.

What should I do if my child exhibits any of the symptoms or if I have questions about AFM?

As with any illness or infection, you should contact your primary care physician so that they can perform a physical examination to determine the cause of any symptoms your child may be experiencing, and can recommend an appropriate treatment plan.

To learn more about Acute Flaccid Myelitis and stay up to date on the Illinois Department of Public Health, please visit: http://dph.illinois.gov/topics-services/diseases-and-conditions/diseases-a-z-list/afm 

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