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    Filter Diseases & Condition

    Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM)

    • Overview

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      Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) is a rare but severe condition that affects the spinal cord, causing sudden weakness in the arms or legs, loss of muscle tone, and loss of reflexes, mainly in young children. Most children experience mild respiratory illness or fever caused by a viral infection one to four weeks before the onset of AFM symptoms. If you or your child experiences symptoms of AFM, seek immediate medical care, as symptoms can progress quickly. Hospitalisation is often necessary; sometimes, a ventilator may be required for breathing support. Since 2014 initial clusters were reported, outbreaks of AFM have occurred in the United States in 2016 and 2018, typically between August and November.

    • Symptoms

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      The most common signs and symptoms of acute flaccid myelitis include:
      Sudden arm or leg weakness.
      Sudden loss of muscle tone.
      Sudden loss of reflexes.

      Other possible signs include:
      Difficulty moving the eyes or drooping eyelids.
      Facial droop or weakness.
      Difficulty with swallowing or slurred speech.
      Pain in the arms, legs, neck or back.

      Uncommon symptoms might include:
      Numbness or tingling.
      Inability to pass urine.

      When the muscles used for breathing become weak, it can cause severe respiratory failure. Additionally, there is a risk of life-threatening changes in body temperature and instability in blood pressure.

    • When to see a doctor

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      If you or your little one is experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above, it’s essential to seek medical attention immediately. Don’t hesitate to get the care you need to stay healthy and happy.

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    • Causes

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      An enterovirus infection may cause acute flaccid myelitis. Enteroviruses are common and often cause respiratory illnesses and fever in children. Most people recover from these infections, but why some people develop acute flaccid myelitis is unclear. In the US, many viruses, including enteroviruses, are prevalent from August to November, when acute flaccid myelitis outbreaks often occur.

      The symptoms of acute flaccid myelitis can resemble those of polio, but none of the cases in the US have been linked to poliovirus.

    • Risk factors

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      Acute flaccid myelitis primarily impacts young children.

    • Prevention

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      Preventing acute flaccid myelitis cannot be done through a specific method. However, avoiding viral infections can minimise the risk of acute flaccid myelitis. To protect yourself or your child from getting or spreading viral infections, follow these steps:
      Wash your hands often with soap and water.
      Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands.
      Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
      Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.
      Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or upper shirt sleeve.
      Keep sick children at home.

    • *Please note that the information provided in the article is for reference purposes only. It is essential to consult a doctor before applying any of the suggestions mentioned.

    Content Details

    Medical info from Mayo Clinic, for reference only. Visit Hoan My for better advice.

    Last updated on: 07/08/2023