With a critical season nearing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is urging clinicians to be alert for acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) cases in coming months, saying prompt reporting is important both to ensure optimal treatment and to help figure out the cause of the mysterious limb-weakening condition in children.

For unknown reasons, a rash of AFM cases has occurred in the late summer and early fall every other year since 2014. The count of confirmed cases in 2018 was 233, well above the totals for 2014 and 2016, the CDC said in a “Vital Signs” report today.

The illness typically occurs in young children within days after a respiratory illness or fever, and many cases have been associated with enteroviruses or rhinoviruses, but no cause has been clearly established. There is no known effective treatment or means of prevention.

“I urge physicians to look for symptoms and report suspected cases so that we can accelerate efforts to address this serious illness,” CDC Director Robert Redfield, MD, said in a press release today.

The CDC said the 2018 data on AFM show some improvements in providers’ response to possible cases, but reporting of cases to public health authorities was slower on average than it was in 2016.

“Since AFM can progress quickly from limb weakness to respiratory failure requiring urgent medical intervention, rapidly identifying symptoms and hospitalizing patients are important,” the agency said.

Many viruses can cause AFM

Credit: iStock, patrickheagney

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