Acute Flaccid Myelitis (AFM)

Last Updated on April 04, 2019

Current Situation

Since August 2014, CDC has received an increased number of reports of people across the United States with Acute Flaccid Myelitis (AFM).  Most of the AFM cases:

  • are in children (over 90%)
  • had a mild respiratory illness or fever before they developed AFM (more than 90%), consistent with a viral infection
  • had onset of AFM between August and October.

Increases in AFM cases have been noted every two years since 2014.  Still, CDC estimates that less than one to two in a million children in the U.S. will get AFM every year.

AFM is a rare but serious condition that affects the nervous system, causing the muscles to become weak.  Persons with AFM may have sudden onset of arm or leg weakness and loss of muscle tone and reflexes.  Other symptoms may include:

  • Facial droop/weakness
  • Difficulty moving the eyes or drooping eyelids
  • Difficulty with swallowing or slurred speech.

The most severe symptom of AFM is respiratory failure that can happen when the muscles involved with breathing become weak.

The cause of most AFM cases is not currently known, although CDC believes viruses likely play a role.  For reasons that are not clear, most cases have occurred in children.

Impact in Hawaii

To date, no cases of AFM have been diagnosed in Hawaii.

What can I do?

If you or your child develops any of the symptoms of AFM, you should seek medical care right away.

While we don’t know the cause of most of the AFM cases, it’s always important to practice disease prevention steps, such as staying up-to-date on vaccines, washing your hands often with soap and water, avoid touching your face with unwashed hands, avoid close contact with people who are sick, and protecting yourself from mosquito bites.

Resources

For more information about AFM, visit https://www.cdc.gov/acute-flaccid-myelitis/.

Information for Clinicians

Healthcare providers who suspect AFM in a patient should contact the Hawaii Department of Health at (808) 586-4586.

For more information regarding AFM, visit the CDC’s clinician information page at https://www.cdc.gov/acute-flaccid-myelitis/hcp/index.html.