Cases of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) have not matched recent outbreaks of influenza and measles in numbers or potential for fatalities, but may be more confounding for physicians and public health officials for one simple reason: While we understand flu and measles and have a bead on why more cases are occurring, AFM continues to be somewhat of a mystery. With the peak season (late summer into early autumn) for new cases of AFM approaching, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now calling on healthcare providers across the country to aid in surveillance of AFM. Specifically, the CDC is asking on clinicians to be alert for symptoms of AFM, and to report all suspected cases to their local health department. Early recognition and reporting are essential in providing care as quickly as possible, leading to the greater chance of a positive outcome. Most patients with AFM are children who had been otherwise healthy before developing respiratory symptoms and/or fever consistent with viral infection less than a week before developing limb weakness. The greatest potential danger is that limb weakness often precedes respiratory failure requiring immediate hospitalization. CDC Director Robert Redfield, MD called AFM “a national public health priority.” The CDC has been tracking AFM since the first outbreak of 120 cases 5 years ago. Another 149 cases occurred in 2016, followed by a bump of 233 patients in 41 states last year. So far, AFM cases have followed a seasonal and biennial pattern, spiking between August and October every other year. For more details about AFM and what you can do to raise awareness and vigilance—and therefore encourage early recognition and treatment—read the CDC’s dedicated AFM page.
CDC Needs Your Help with Acute Flaccid Myelitis