Acute Flaccid Myelitis (AFM)

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It can be a parent’s most terrifying moment – when your child suddenly exhibits symptoms that are intense, difficult to understand and uncommon. Diagnosis can be challenging, treatment not widely known and gathering information nearly impossible.

If you are on Facebook, perhaps you’ve seen the photos of small children in hospitals, obviously very ill and the accompanying post about Acute Flaccid Myelitis. Alzein Pediatrics is here to help you understand this illness.

First, Acute Flaccid Myelitis (AFM) is a very rare disease. While there was a disturbing uptick in diagnosed cases in the fall of 2014 and an increase in cases diagnosed again this year, less than one in a million people will contract the illness.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the exact cause of AFM has not been pinpointed, but that it is associated with enteroviruses, adenoviruses and viruses in the West Nile family.

AFM affects the spinal cord and can duplicate the symptoms of a stroke. Your child may suddenly have problems walking or standing, may have a facial droop or weakness, drooping eyelids, difficulty moving her eyes, sudden weakness in an arm or leg, or slurred speech or trouble swallowing. She may be unable to urinate. Some severe cases require breathing machines, as muscle weakness can cause respiratory failure.

If your child – or any family member, as AFM is not necessarily a childhood condition – has any of these symptoms, call Alzein Pediatrics immediately for an Urgent Care Appointment

We will examine your child’s nervous system, looking at muscle tone, reflexes and weaknesses. We may order an MRI, test nerve responses or order a test of cerebrospinal fluid to determine the proper diagnosis. Symptoms of AFM can also be symptoms of an infection, toxin, Guillain-Barre syndrome or genetic disorders. Many times, the cause of your child’s AFM may not be clearly determined.

There is no one particular treatment for AFM. Patients are analyzed on a case-by-case basis and unique therapies and medications recommended for each. The sooner you react to symptoms by getting the patient to urgent care, the faster diagnosis and treatment can happen.

Preventing AFM is done by just practicing good health recommendations. Make sure everyone is up to date on all recommended vaccinations, especially poliovirus. Avoid contact with sick people. Use a mosquito repellent with DEET when your family is outdoors, especially at dusk and dawn. Wash hands often with plain soap and water. Disinfect bathrooms, kitchens and other shared areas regularly.

Remember – if you or your child shows any stroke-like symptoms, call Alzein Pediatrics at 708-424-7600 immediately. While the chances are one in a million that your child will contract AFM, we want to be sure your child is healthy and happy.

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