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AFM Information for Parents
Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) is an uncommon but serious condition affecting the nervous system, specifically the spinal cord. Symptoms of AFM can include arm and/or leg weakness and loss of muscle tone and reflexes, which may lead to paralysis. AFM is thought to be caused by different types of viruses, including enteroviruses; most patients with AFM have upper respiratory symptoms or fever in the days or weeks preceding the onset of weakness. Anyone of any age may get AFM but it is most common in young children (more than 90%).
Symptoms can progress rapidly and be life threatening. If you see potential symptoms of AFM in your child, contact your health care provider right away.
There is no specific treatment for AFM, but a neurologist may recommend certain interventions on an individual basis. If your clinician suspects your child has AFM, they should hospitalize your child immediately; AFM can progress rapidly and sometimes requires machines to help patients breathe.
Florida has partnered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for AFM case investigations to better understand the spectrum of AFM illness, including all possible causes, risk factors and outcomes. Your child's doctor should contact the Florida Department of Health if they suspect AFM. The Department will then begin a case investigation.
These are the steps to AFM investigations:
- Doctors may report suspect AFM cases to the Department. The Department will then work with doctors to collect medical information and specimens.
- After personal information is removed, case information is sent securely to CDC to complete AFM investigations. CDC may do enterovirus testing with specimens from suspect AFM cases. CDC may also do research or additional testing with specimens to look for possible causes of AFM.
- Neurologists at CDC review the medical information and classify cases as confirmed AFM, probable AFM, suspect AFM or not AFM.
- Case classifications are reported back to the Department by CDC and then provided to the case’s doctors. It may take a few weeks for case classifications to become available. This is because in-depth review of the medical information is needed. Since this can take time, doctors should not wait for the case classification to provide a diagnosis or start treatment.
To help us learn more about the long-term effects of AFM, the Department will contact the physician 2 months after the AFM illness began for confirmed and probable AFM cases to do a short follow-up interview.
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