Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) is a rare but serious neurological condition that primarily affects children. It is characterized by sudden onset of weakness in one or more limbs, along with loss of muscle tone and reflexes. In some cases, AFM can also cause facial droop, difficulty swallowing, and difficulty speaking.
The exact cause of AFM is not known, but it is believed to be related to viral infections, particularly enteroviruses. Other possible triggers include West Nile virus, adenoviruses, and other viral infections. AFM has been associated with outbreaks every two years in the United States since 2014.
Diagnosis of AFM is based on a combination of clinical symptoms, physical examination, and imaging studies such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the spinal cord. Laboratory tests, including blood and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) analysis, may be done to rule out other conditions.
Treatment for AFM is focused on managing symptoms and providing supportive care. This may include physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy to help with mobility, communication, and daily activities. In some cases, medications such as corticosteroids or intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) may be used to reduce inflammation and improve outcomes.
The prognosis for AFM varies depending on the severity of the condition and the extent of nerve damage. Some children may recover completely, while others may experience long-term weakness and disability. In rare cases, AFM can be life-threatening, particularly if respiratory muscles are affected.
Prevention of AFM is challenging since the exact cause is not known. However, practicing good hygiene, including frequent hand washing and avoiding contact with people who are sick, may help reduce the risk of viral infections that can lead to AFM. Vaccines are also available for some viral infections that have been associated with AFM, such as polio and enterovirus D68.