Acute Flaccid Myelitis or AFM, is an illness that affects the area of the spinal cord called the gray matter. This can result in weakness or paralysis and can have a sudden onset. AFM has been around for several years and usually peaks in the summer and fall months, however, there is not a known cause for the illness or a known reason for the increase in cases this year.
The telltale sign of AFM is sudden onset of weakness in the arms or legs, trouble swallowing, drooping eyelids, facial droop, or trouble talking/slurred speech. In the cases studied, the illness starts off as a respiratory virus with a mild fever and then develops into weakness/paralysis several days later. Most patients with a respiratory illness will NOT develop AFM.
The CDC recommends that parents take certain precautions to potentially prevent AFM including:
Good hand washing habits, avoiding close contact with people who are ill, and cleaning/disinfecting frequently touched surfaces/toys (protects from many different viruses)
Protection against mosquitoes by using repellent, removing standing water by your home, and staying indoors at dusk & dawn (to prevent transmission of the West Nile virus)
Keep your child up to date with recommended vaccinations
The CDC is actively working with researchers, health departments, and clinicians to find out more information about AFM. Please visit the other websites listed below to get more information.