What is Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM)?
Last Update on September 14, 2022
Medically reviewed by Angelena Maria Labella, MD
| Signs and Symptoms | Causes | Prevention | Diagnosis | Treatment |
Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) is a serious but uncommon disorder that affects the central nervous system, primarily the spinal cord, and results in aberrant muscle and reflex function. Such a state is not brand-new. Anyone can develop Acute flaccid myelitis or similar neurologic disorders. Viruses, poisons, and genetic abnormalities are just a few of the many potential reasons.
It may cause a sudden loss of muscle tone, a weakened arm or leg, and a loss of reflexes. This disease is more effect on young children.
Before experiencing signs of acute flaccid myelitis, the majority of children experience a moderate respiratory illness or fever brought on by a viral infection one to four weeks earlier.
Seek quick medical attention if a child starts to exhibit acute flaccid myelitis symptoms. Symptoms can advance quickly. A ventilator may be necessary for breathing support during treatment.
Following the first clusters in 2014, specialists began tracking acute flaccid myelitis, and outbreaks in the US occur in 2016 and 2018.
1. Signs and Symptoms of Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) disease:
The following are a few of the most common signs and symptoms of acute flaccid myelitis:
- Sudden arm or leg weakness
- Sudden loss of muscle tone
- Sudden loss of reflexes
- Additional warning signs and symptoms could be:
- Difficulty in moving the eyes or drooping eyelids
- Facial droop or weakness
- Difficulty with swallowing or slurred speech
- Pain in the arms, legs, neck, or pain in the backbone
Some other uncommon signs and symptoms are:
- Numbness or tingling
- Inability to pass urine
- Respiratory failure is one of the main symptoms due to the weakness of the breathing muscles. Additionally, it is possible to develop blood pressure stability and life-threatening variations in body temperature.
2. Causes of Acute flaccid myelitis:
Since the United States saw its first rise in Acute flaccid myelitis cases in 2014, Health Breaking has been keeping a close watch on the disease. In 2016 and 2018, there were two more increases.
- Enterovirus D68 is likely to be the source of these increases in instances (EV-D68).
- Acute flaccid myelitis typically manifests in patients between August and November.
- Many viruses, particularly enteroviruses, frequently spread in the United States at this time of year.
- Particularly in children, viral infections (such as those caused by enteroviruses) can cause respiratory symptoms and fever, but the majority of patients recover.
- The rise in EV-D68 circulation was noticed in 2016 and 2018, and it coincided with a national outbreak of severe respiratory sickness in 2014.
- The most prevalent virus found in samples from acute flaccid myelitis patients was EV-D68, which was typically seen in respiratory specimens.
- Patients with AFM were more likely than those without AFM to have enterovirus-specific antibodies in their spinal fluid. Antibodies against a virus indicate prior exposure to that virus in a person.
- Other viruses, such as adenoviruses, herpesviruses, and flaviviruses (West Nile virus, Japanese encephalitis virus), can also produce AFM.
Coxsackievirus A16, EV-A71, and EV-D68 have all been identified in the spinal fluid of a small percentage of Acute flaccid myelitis patients. We were unable to identify any infections in the spinal fluid of the remaining individuals to establish a cause. This might be the case either because the virus has been eliminated by the body or because it is difficult to detect because it is hidden in tissues.
We also checked the poliovirus in stool samples from acute flaccid myelitis patients because the disease resembles polio quite a bit. We tested every sample and found no poliovirus present. This indicates that no poliovirus has been found in instances of AFM reported in the United States.
3. How to Prevent from Causes of Acute flaccid myelitis:
Viruses, especially enteroviruses, can cause acute flaccid myelitis. The majority of the time, enteroviruses only cause little disease. We are trying to figure out why a small percentage of patients get AFM after contracting a virus.
There is no specific course of action to take in order to prevent AFM because we do not know what causes AFM in an individual. However, you can take precautions to avoid contracting a virus.
There are many things you can take to reduce the chance of you and your child contracting a virus:
- Regularly wash hands frequently for at least 20 seconds with soap and water to protect from disease.
- Never touch your face with dirty hands.
- Stay away from sick people’s close quarters.
- Maintain a current vaccination schedule.
- The likelihood of a virus spreading can be decreased by:
- Toys, phones, and doorknobs are examples of commonly touched surfaces that should be cleaned and disinfected.
There are ways to lessen the risk of a virus spreading:
- Use a tissue or the upper sleeve of your shirt to sneeze and cough rather than your hands.
- If you or your child effect by AFM, stay home.
- Oughs and sneezes using a tissue or the top of the shirt, not
4. Diagnosis of Causes of Acute flaccid myelitis:
The tests listed below can aid in the identification of Acute flaccid myelitis. A doctor may:
- Examine the nervous system
A doctor can check a patient’s neural system, as well as the areas of the body where they experience muscle weakness, slow reflexes, and weakness.
In order to examine a patient’s brain and spinal cord for alterations in the grey matter that could point to Acute flaccid myelitis, a practitioner may also use an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging).
- Laboratory Test
To check for symptoms of inflammation, a doctor may do lab tests on the cerebrospinal fluid, the liquid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord.
- Check nerve conduction
To identify the location of the weakness, a clinician may examine nerve conduction (the impulse sent along a nerve fiber) and reaction.
5. Treatment of Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM):
Although there is no specific treatment for Acute flaccid myelitis a doctor who focuses on conditions similar to AFM could suggest particular measures in a given situation. As an illustration, clinicians would advise physical or occupational therapy to treat arm or leg weakness put on by Acute flaccid myelitis. If physical rehabilitation is started at the early stages of the illness, the long-term prognosis might be better.