Vital Signs Report: Acute Flaccid Myelitis

This month’s CDC Vital Signs report is on acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), a rare but serious condition causing limb weakness, mostly in children. Some patients also experience difficulty moving their eyes or having drooping eyelids, facial droop or weakness, or difficulty with swallowing or slurred speech. Three national outbreaks have occurred, with a total of 570 cases in 48 states and D.C. since 2014, when CDC began surveillance for AFM.

KEY FACTS:

  • In 2018, 233 cases of AFM occurred in 41 states, making it the third and largest outbreak to date. Most cases occurred in the late summer or early fall.
  • The average age of patients with AFM was 5 years.  Most had respiratory symptoms or fever consistent with a viral infection less than a week before limb weakness began.
  • CDC believes that viruses, including enteroviruses, play a role in AFM.
  • Currently, there are no proven ways to treat or prevent AFM.
  • On average, CDC received reports of suspected AFM cases 18 days after the patient’s limb weakness began.
  • Recognizing AFM is challenging. The condition is rare, and there is no lab test available to diagnose patients at this time.
  • Promptly recognizing symptoms, collecting specimens, and reporting to CDC are all critical to improve understanding of this complex syndrome, including risk factors, outcomes, possible treatments, and ways to prevent it.
  • Parents should immediately seek medical care if their child develops sudden arm or leg weakness.

You can find more information in this month’s Vital Signs at www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns.

About Kim Rodgers

Kim Rodgers serves as a Communications Specialist at NACCHO. Her work includes promoting local health departments' best practices, as well as partner tools and resources, in infectious disease and preparedness through NACCHO's communications channels, storytelling, and outreach to various audiences.

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