AFM virus

AFM (rare polio-like illness)

Currently in clinic, we have been asked questions about an illness that keeps appearing in the news that is frightening to parents. New stations across the country have been reporting on a “polio-like” illness that “doctors don’t know the cause.” That of course would concern any parent. Recently, I have been asked questions like “How do I know if my kid is getting this illness? What do I do to prevent it? What is the likelihood that it will be in our area?”

This illness and its mystery that the media is reporting is truly worrisome. It’s referred to as acute flaccid myelitis or AFM. Though it’s not new, there have been more cases reported since 2014. Over 100 cases of AFM were reported in the United States. It’s a serious illness that can cause weakness and paralysis. Symptoms can include sudden onset of arm or leg weakness, drooping eyelids or face, and difficulty swallowing or slurred speech.

If your child develops any concerning symptoms, you should have them checked immediately. Most of the cases have been in children under four years old. The CDC has not found a cause to link these numerous cases, however previous outbreaks of AFM have been linked to viral illnesses. The American Academy of Pediatrics has reminded parents that this illness is rare. The chance of your child getting it is truly less than one in a million. You can protect yourself and others by viral illnesses by washing your hands often with soap and water, avoid close contact with people who are sick, and clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.