Acute Flaccid Myelitis in U.S. Children

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to receive reports of children with acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), a rare but serious condition. This condition is not new, but the increase in cases the CDC saw starting in 2014 is new. There are different possible causes, such as viruses, environmental toxins, and genetic disorders. AFM affects the nervous system, specifically the spinal cord, which can cause the muscles and reflexes in the body not to work normally.

In August 2014, the CDC was made aware of an increased number of people, mostly children, with AFM. Since then, the agency has been working hard to better understand AFM, what puts people at risk of getting it, and the possible causes. AFM remains rare (less than one in a million people), even with the recent increase in cases. However, AFM is serious, and scientists don’t yet know what causes most people to get it or how to protect people from getting AFM. As the CDC continues to learn about AFM, it urges parents to seek medical care right away if their child develops symptoms of AFM.

AFM is rare, but it can lead to serious neurologic problems. You should seek medical care right away if you or your child develops any of these symptoms:

weakness and loss of muscle tone and reflexes in the arms or legs
facial droop or weakness
difficulty moving the eyes
drooping eyelids
difficulty swallowing
slurred speech

Certain viruses, such as poliovirus and West Nile virus, may sometimes lead to conditions like AFM. You can protect yourself and your children from these viruses by protecting against bites from mosquitoes, which can carry West Nile virus, by using mosquito repellent, staying indoors at dusk and dawn (when bites are more common), and removing standing or stagnant water near your home (where mosquitoes can breed).

Source: CDC