AFM: The scary polio-like illness – Harvard Health Blog


It’s a scary sickness, not only for dad and mom however for docs, too: Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) causes sudden weak point and lack of muscle tone within the legs and arms and might go on to trigger much more severe issues.

It’s not simply the signs which might be scary. It’s additionally scary as a result of we don’t know what causes it. Though the signs are much like polio, sufferers with AFM have examined unfavourable for polio. At one level it was thought that it was attributable to one other enterovirus, however that didn’t find yourself being the reason. It could be one other virus, or it might be some type of toxin, or one thing else fully — or maybe a mixture of things.

What we do (and don’t) find out about AFM

We all know that AFM is extra frequent in kids, and we all know that circumstances spike in summer season and fall. We all know that the signs are like these attributable to viruses corresponding to enterovirus, adenovirus, or West Nile virus, however after that there’s not a lot we all know. As a result of now we have been following this sickness solely since 2014, we don’t know the long-term results of it both. Some sufferers get better shortly and utterly, however for others the weak point doesn’t go away.

AFM signs

The symptoms of AFM include:

  • weak point within the arms or legs or each
  • lack of muscle tone within the arms or legs or each. Which means not solely are the arms or legs weak, they appear looser or floppier than common.
  • In some circumstances, signs may embrace:
    • weak point of the muscular tissues of the face, which can trigger the face to droop
    • hassle transferring the eyes
    • weak point of the eyelids, in order that they droop
    • hassle speaking
    • hassle swallowing
    • hassle respiratory.

In case your baby reveals any of those signs, name your physician immediately.

Treating AFM

As a result of we don’t know precisely what’s inflicting AFM, we don’t have a definitive therapy. We assist sufferers when they’re sick, giving medicines to assist their signs, and bodily remedy and different such therapies that will assist with weak point, however there is no such thing as a medication we may give to remedy and even deal with the sickness itself.

AFM and public well being

And to make issues even scarier, the number of cases is on the rise. To this point in 2018, there have been 62 confirmed circumstances (127 have been reported as attainable circumstances, however 62 have been confirmed). In all of 2017, solely 33 circumstances had been confirmed. Since 2014, there have been 368 confirmed circumstances. Getting precise numbers on this sickness is difficult, as there is no such thing as a clear check for it. The Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention (CDC) makes use of clinical symptoms as well as findings on MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) of the mind to resolve whether or not somebody has AFM. As a result of not all sufferers get MRI testing, and since not all sufferers get reported to the CDC, it’s possible that the numbers are increased.

What dad and mom have to know

Since we don’t know precisely what causes AFM, it’s exhausting to inform folks forestall it. You possibly can forestall polio by being vaccinated, and everybody needs to be vaccinated. West Nile virus could cause related signs and avoiding mosquito bites is one of the simplest ways to stop that. The most effective recommendation we may give now to stop the viruses that may trigger AFM is the only: wash your fingers, nicely and sometimes.

Regardless of all this scary stuff, it’s necessary to do not forget that total it is a uncommon illness — lower than one in one million folks get it.

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