Acute Flaccid Myelitis (AFM) cases
Since September, SickKids and a number of other North American paediatric centres have seen an increase of patients with muscle weakness following a viral illness. These symptoms are typical of acute flaccid paralysis (AFP). Many of these patients are being identified as having acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), which is a type of AFP.
AFM typically affects patients under the age of 15. The symptoms include paralysis or weakness of a leg or arm, usually on one side of the body, which typically appears after a viral illness.
There can be many potential causes of AFM. In 2014, there was a somewhat similar cluster of 25 patients across Canada, who presented with AFM symptoms in the fall. Some of these cases were linked to Enterovirus (EV) D68. The cases that are presenting this year don’t appear to be closely linked to the EV D68 virus, although some have tested positive for EV.
Treatment for this condition can vary on a case-by-case basis, but would involve a multi-disciplinary care team and may include medications such and other IV therapies. The prognosis and long-term effects of AFM can vary. Some patients recover fully and others may experience a spectrum of long-term and possibly permanent effects.
The risk of developing AFM is still very low (approximately one in a million children each year) and the public should not be alarmed by recent reports of increased cases.
If your child develops weakness of a limb, especially in the context of cold-like or viral symptoms, you should see your health-care provider immediately. As always, the best way to avoid transmitting viral infections is through diligent hand washing.
For more information, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.