AFM: The scary polio-like illness

It’s a scary sickness, not only for dad and mom however for medical doctors, too: Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) causes sudden weak spot 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 are 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 detrimental for polio. At one level it was thought that it was brought on by one other enterovirus, however that didn’t find yourself being the reason. It could be one other virus, or it could be some type of toxin, or one thing else fully — or maybe a mixture of things.

What we do (and don’t) learn about AFM

We all know that AFM is extra frequent in kids, and we all know that instances spike in summer time and fall. We all know that the signs are like these brought on by viruses reminiscent of enterovirus, adenovirus, or West Nile virus, however after that there’s not a lot we all know. As a result of we’ve got been following this sickness solely since 2014, we don’t know the long-term results of it both. Some sufferers get better shortly and fully, however for others the weak spot doesn’t go away.

AFM signs

The signs of AFM embody:

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

In case your youngster reveals any of those signs, name your physician straight away.

Treating AFM

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

AFM and public well being

And to make issues even scarier, the variety of instances is on the rise. Up to now in 2018, there have been 62 confirmed instances (127 have been reported as attainable instances, however 62 have been confirmed). In all of 2017, solely 33 instances had been confirmed. Since 2014, there have been 368 confirmed instances. 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 medical signs in addition to 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 doubtless that the numbers are increased.

What dad and mom must know

Since we don’t know precisely what causes AFM, it’s onerous to inform folks how you can forestall it. You possibly can forestall polio by being vaccinated, and everybody ought to be vaccinated. West Nile virus could cause related signs and avoiding mosquito bites is the easiest way to forestall that. One of the best recommendation we may give now to forestall the viruses that may trigger AFM is the only: wash your arms, nicely and sometimes.

Regardless of all this scary stuff, it’s vital to do not forget that general this can be a uncommon illness — lower than one in one million folks get it.

Commenting has been closed for this publish.

Leave a Reply