Acute Flaccid Myelitis Cases on the Rise - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

The news has been covering a little-known illness called acute flaccid myelitis a lot lately – partly because many people believe the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention dropped the ball and partly because there have been at least six confirmed cases right here in Wisconsin.

But what is acute flaccid myelitis, and what happens when someone has it?

What is Acute Flaccid Myelitis?

Commonly called AFM, acute flaccid myelitis is a condition that mimics polio in many ways. It’s still a mystery to doctors and medical professionals, though – and one of the few things we know about it is that fast treatment is essential. It’s not contagious itself, but the virus that are believed to cause it might be.

Most people who get AFM suffer from a sudden onset of limb weakness and loss of muscle tone and reflexes.

AFM in Wisconsin

Acute flaccid myelitis isn’t just affecting kids – it’s sickened six people in Wisconsin, one of whom is an adult.

AFM Symptoms

While AFM is rare, it can lead to serious and permanent conditions. Some of the symptoms to watch for include:

  • Weakness and loss of muscle tone
  • Loss of reflexes in arms or legs
  • Facial droop or weakness
  • Difficulty moving the eyes
  • Drooping eyelids
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Slurred speech

What is the CDC Doing About AFM?

This is the CDC’s job. This is what they’re supposed to do well. And it’s a source of frustration to many of us that they’re apparently not doing these things,” said Dr. Kenneth Tyler, a professor and chair of the department of neurology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and adviser to the CDC on AFM.

But the CDC says it’s racing to determine AFM’s cause and to find the best treatments.

“As a mom, I know what its like to be scared for your child. And I know parents want answers,” said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “We’ve learned a lot about AFM since 2014, but there are things we still don’t understand.”

What Do You Think?

Do you think the CDC is doing enough to find the cause and possible cures for AFM? Do you know how to recognize the symptoms?

I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please share them on my Facebook page or join the conversation on Twitter.

Carlos Gamino