Like a perfect, horrible storm, Acute Flaccid Myelitis (AFM) is peaking this year, with the worst outbreaks occurring between August and November. This fall, AFM is made more even threatening by COVID-19 and the beginning of the flu season.
While the polio-like AFM continues to be rare, as of August 31, 21 cases have been confirmed in the United States this year and one child has died. There are 44 more cases under investigation. Illinois has experienced two cases so far this year.
Alzein Pediatrics is here to help you recognize AFM and help you take the right steps to prevent it, identify it and seek immediate treatment.
The most common symptom of AFM is a sudden weakness in an arm or leg and paralysis. Most children experience a fever and/or a respiratory illness like a cold about a week before experiencing weakness in the arm or leg. Your child may also experience:
- Facial or neck droop or weakness
- Drooping eyelids
- Difficulty walking or standing
- Difficulty moving their eyes
- Slurred speech
- Trouble swallowing
- Back or neck pain
Go to your nearest hospital emergency room immediately if your child shows any symptoms. Do not wait, even for an hour. With immediate testing, diagnosis and treatment, your child will have a real chance of complete recovery. Delaying treatment may mean your child will suffer permanent paralysis or death.
AFM is life-threatening. Nearly 100% of children who contract AFM will spend time in the hospital and about 54% of patients require intensive care. 25% of patients need breathing machines to avoid fatal respiratory failure.
There is no vaccine for AFM. Researchers have not identified the exact cause of AFM, but studies indicate it is associated with enterovirus D68 (EV-D68). There is no cure but immediate treatment can help your child retain and regain as much muscle function as possible.
COVID-19 and seasonal influenza are now complicating this 2020 AFM peak. While some experts believe that COVID-19 and flu prevention methods will help prevent AFM, others are concerned that COVID-19 will delay parents from getting immediate treatment, that the AFM peak time may be extended, or that COVID-19 will prevent accurate diagnosis of AFM.
Protect your family from AFM, COVID-19 and the flu by practicing aggressive infection prevention methods:
- Make sure everyone in your family over six months of age is vaccinated for the flu
- Make sure everyone in your family is current on all vaccinations
- Everyone over the age of 2 should wear a mask when in public spaces
- Stay 6 feet or more away from anyone who does not live in your home
- Wash hands often with soap and warm water or alcohol-based sanitizer for at least 20 seconds
- Avoid sick people
- Sanitize bathrooms, kitchens and shared spaces in your home frequently
With AFM, every minute counts! If your child shows weakness, drooping, slurring, paralysis or any symptoms of AFM, get to your nearest hospital emergency room immediately.
If you have questions about AFM, call our office at 708-424-7600. Alzein Pediatrics is always here to help!