Acute Flaccid Myelitis (not a vaccination topic – yet)

Many of you have heard about the mysterious cases of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) that have been occurring around the country for the past several years.  It is a polio-like condition that causes sudden-onset of weakness of an arm or a leg or other muscles.  Sometimes the weakness involves breathing muscles or the face.  Sometimes the severity is so bad that it causes difficulty with breathing and necessitates hospitalization.    Afterwards, in most victims the weakness goes away; in some it is permanent.  As a result, these are a lot of pediatric neurosurgeons getting experience with nerve transfers (moving a nerve ending from one place to another), to try to restore some movement to a permanently damaged arm or leg.

The CDC was oddly quiet about this condition for the first few years after it started being recognized.  There seemed to be a pattern of an increased number of cases every 2 years (in the even-number years) with less cases in the odd years of 2015 and 2017.  This year there have been more cases identified than in any past years (it is unknown if this is because of more cases or more awareness).  This illness is NOT caused by polio virus but many of the symptoms are similar to polio.  Some cases of AFM seem to be associated with different strains of enteroviruses, which commonly cause respiratory illness in the U.S. , especially in the “cold and flu” season.  No definitive cause has been determined, and many studies are ongoing.

Here’s a related blog article from The Pediatric Insider:

See more the the CDC’s AFM web page:

Author: marcgrella

Primary care pediatrician; vaccine advocate; hunger fighter; refugee supporter.

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