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What people should know about Acute Flaccid Myelitis or AFM

Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) is a rare but serious condition. It affects the nervous system, specifically the area of spinal cord called gray matter, which causes the muscles and reflexes in the body to become weak. This condition is not new, but the increase in cases we saw starting in 2014 is new. Still, the CDC estimates less than one in a million people in the United States will get AFM every year. There are a variety of possible causes of AFM, such as viruses, environmental toxins and genetic disorders. Most of the cases that CDC has learned about have been in children.


Most people will have sudden onset of arm or leg weakness and loss of muscle tone and reflexes. Some people, in addition to arm or leg weakness, will have:

• facial droop/weakness

• difficulty moving the eyes

• drooping eyelids or

• difficulty with swallowing or slurred speech


AFM can be difficult to diagnose because it shares many of the same symptoms as other neurologic diseases, like transverse myelitis and Guillain-Barre syndrome. With the help of testing and examinations, doctors can distinguish between AFM and other neurologic conditions.


To prevent spread of illness in the community, performing meticulous hand hygiene frequently is the best way to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. People should also cover their coughs and stay home if they are feeling sick.


Learn more about AFM from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Learn about the Infectious Diseases Program at Children's Mercy