What You Need to Know: Acute Flaccid Myelitis

Acute flaccid myelitis: CDC sees rise in cases, seasonal pattern to polio-like illness

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So far this year, the CDC has confirmed 62 cases acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM, in 22 states, and has received reports of 127 patients who are under investigation.

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The CDC started detecting the increases in 2014. Since, then there have been 386 cases of the mysterious illness, including one death in 2017.

Despite the increase in cases, the disease remains rare, with fewer than an estimated one in a million people getting AFM each year, the CDC said. However, it’s not mandatory for health providers to report AFM, so it’s possible there could be more cases.

According to Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, most AFM cases occur in late summer and fall. The Associated Press reported that "similar waves of the same illness occurred in 2014 and 2016," appearing to follow "every-other-year pattern."

“As far as we know, it has only been detected in the United States. In terms of clustering in the United States, many states in the U.S. have been impacted by this disease, so we are not seeing geographic clustering in 2018, nor have we seen it in 2016 or 2014,” Messonnier said.

>> On ActionNewsJax.com: Florida toddler fighting polio-like disease in ICU, mom says

In Jacksonville, Florida, doctors believe Aamira Faircloth, 3, has AFM. She is in fair condition at Wolfson Children’s Hospital.

Aamira's mother, Reba, told ActionNewsJax on Tuesday that her daughter suddenly couldn’t walk.

“It was just like how a baby learns to walk, and she collapsed and fell to the ground,” Reba said.

Dr. Mobeen Rathore, chief of infectious diseases at Wolfson Children’s Hospital, said this isn’t cause for panic, but parents should be aware.

“The good news is we know it’s not polio, but unfortunately it’s still happening, it almost looks like every other year, and still affecting children,” he said.

Rathore said the most frustrating thing about the illness is "not knowing what causes it and not knowing how to treat it."

ActionNewsJax's Facebook post about the illness received hundreds of comments, including one from Christina Strickland, who wrote that in 2012 she woke up one morning to find her son “crying laying on the floor screaming in pain that he couldn’t walk.”

>> On ActionNewsJax.com: Jacksonville sees first case of polio-like illness affecting children in Florida

Other parents on the thread blamed vaccinations – a claim that Rathore disputed.

“Absolutely not. There is no evidence. There’s absolutely no evidence that vaccines have anything to do with this,” Rathore said.

According to Rathore, there’s also no evidence that AFM is caused by the flu shot. 

He said there is something parents can do right now.

“Good hand hygiene, good cough etiquette, stay away from people who are sick,” Rathore said.

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