Acute Flaccid Myelitis: 7 things to know

1. Acute Flaccid Myelitis, also known as AFM, may look similar to polio ... but is not polio.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), AFM is a rare condition affecting the area of the spinal cord called "gray matter" and causes muscles and reflexes to become weak.

2. There is not an outbreak of AFM. Outbreaks are extremely rare. 

The CDC says parents need to know that AFM is extremely rare; the rate of AFM over the years that it has been diagnosed — which is from 2014 on — is less than one in a million. In 2014 there were 120 cases, and in 2016 there were 136 cases.

3. AFM has been associated with other viruses, such as enterovirus, but no causal relationship has been established. 

It’s not currently it is not known what causes AFM.  There are a variety of possible causes of AFM, such as viruses, environmental toxins, and genetic disorders.

4. Most of the cases that CDC has learned about have been in children.

The CDC recommends parents seek medical care immediately if their child develops sudden weakness or loss of muscle tone in the arms or legs.

According to the CDC, the most severe symptom of AFM is respiratory failure that can happen when the muscles involved with breathing become weak.

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5. Medical professionals recommend frequent hand-washing — and staying up to date on recommended immunizations. 

Also recommended: Using insect repellent, covering coughs and sneezes and staying home from school or work when sick.

6. KIRO-TV Seattle talked to experts who said they have have noticed outbreaks typically happen in the fall. 

In most cases, it developed in kids a week or two after they got sick.

“Many of the cases, or the suspected cases we’ve seen, have had cold and flu symptoms before the onset of the symptoms of AFM,” Michelle Holshue, a nurse epidemiologist at the Washington Department of Health, said.

7. The CDC does not know of any specific treatments for AFM. 

A doctor who specializes in treating brain and spinal cord illnesses (neurologist) may recommend certain interventions on a case-by-case basis, the CDC said.