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Oct 18

AFM Information from Iowa Department of Public Health

Two potential cases of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) have been reported to the Iowa Department of Public Health in 2018.

  • Both cases were in children (one in Western Iowa, one in Central Iowa).
  • Neither child died.

AFM is a serious condition that causes weakness in the arms and legs.

  • There are several potential causes of AFM, such as viruses (like enteroviruses, adenoviruses and West Nile virus), environmental toxins, a condition where the immune system attacks body tissue and genetic disorders.
  • AFM is very rare, but it is serious and we know it can be scary, because it has affected predominantly children and there is no specific treatment.
  • IDPH is working with CDC, local public health and health care providers to ensure providers know what symptoms to look for and what actions to take.
  • When patients have symptoms consistent with AFM “definition,” IDPH works with the health care provider to collect specimens and details of the patient’s course of illness and exposures, and the information and specimens are sent to CDC.

Parents should make sure they and their children do basic things to stay healthy, including:

  • The Three Cs:
    • Clean your hands frequently
    • Cover your cough
    • Contain germs by staying home when ill
  • Make sure all vaccinations are up-to-date.
  • Prevent mosquito bites (since WNV can cause AFM).

Symptoms of AFM include sudden muscle weakness in the arms or legs, often following a respiratory illness.

  • Some other symptoms that patients may have include:
    • Neck weakness or stiffness
    • Drooping eyelids or a facial droop
    • Difficulty swallowing or slurred speech
  • Contact a health care provider as soon as possible if AFM symptoms appear; for example, if they or their child is not using their arm.
  • There is no specific treatment for AFM, but a doctor may recommend things like physical and occupational therapy to help with arm or leg weakness.