Acute flaccid myelitis otherwise known as AFM is a serious condition. The condition is not new; reported cases began to increase in 2014. Recently the condition has been in the media with deaths reported in 2018. Currently a specific cause for AFM has not been determined but possible causes appear to be virus or environmental toxin related.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report recent cases have been in children.
According to the CDC website, “Most people will have sudden onset of arm or leg weakness and loss of muscle tone and reflexes. Numbness or tingling is rare in people with AFM, although some people have pain in their arms or legs. Some people with AFM may be unable to pass urine. The most severe symptom of AFM is respiratory failure that can happen when the muscles involved with breathing become weak.”
AFM symptoms do mirror those of polio, but the conditions are not the same.
Diagnosis of AFM is done by examining the patient’s nervous system which includes a review of body weaknesses, muscle tone and reflexes. MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and additional lab test may be necessary in order to check a patient’s brain and spinal cord.
It is understandable that the severity of AFM can be extremely concerning for parents. It is important to discuss your concerns with your child’s primary care doctor and have your child tested as soon as possible after developing symptoms. With the help of testing and examinations, doctors can distinguish between AFM and other neurologic diseases and conditions which have similar symptoms.
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