CDC expects AFM Outbreak

Author: Dr. Asma Burney (MBBS) | Reviewer: Muhammad Rehan Mian (MSPH) | 04 September, 2020

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued an alert against the outbreak of an uncommon neurologic condition called acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), affecting mostly children.

The most common symptom of AFM is limb weakness and paralysis. Other symptoms may include difficulty walking, neck/back pain, fever, and limb pain. Disease progression is rapid and permanent paralysis and/or life-threatening complications of respiratory failure may occur in previously healthy patients.

AFM has peaked every two years between August and November in the US since 2014. There was a delay in care for some patients in 2018 as 35% of patients were not hospitalized until two or more days after limb weakness. Given the rapid progression of the disease, such delays may result in serious complications.

The CDC recommends that AFM should be suspected in patients with sudden limb weakness, especially between August and November. Recent respiratory illness or fever and the presence of neck/back pain or any neurologic symptom should heighten concern. Pediatricians and frontline providers in emergency departments and urgent care centers should be prepared to quickly recognize symptoms of AFM and immediately hospitalize patients.

There is currently no specific test, proven treatment, or prevention method for AFM.

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