The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced on July 9, 2019 that it had confirmed 11 cases of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) in eight states this year, including four cases in California and cases in Maryland, Nebraska, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah and West Virginia. The CDC is investigating another 46 possible cases of the polio-like paralysis disorder that affects mostly children.1 2 3
A total of 233 cases of AFM were confirmed in the United States last year, compared to 120 cases in 2014, 22 in 2015, 149 in 2016 and 35 in 2017.3
AFM has been commonly described as a “polio-like” paralysis disorder. Nancy Messonnier, MD, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, has compared AFM to another polio-like disorder known as Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) in which the immune system attacks healthy nerve cells in the peripheral nervous system.4“
The CDC’s principal deputy director, Anne Schuchat, MD recently described AFM as a “devastating illness” but assured parents, “[W]e are keeping their children front and center and working with our partners to better understand this illness, its risk factors and ways to treat and prevent it.2
Five years after it emerged as a public health concern, the cause of AFM remains a mystery. As reported in an article in The Vaccine Reaction earlier this year,”Despite a highly speculative theory that AFM might be linked to a virus known as Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68), the disorder has public health officials, doctors and infectious disease specialists completely stumped.”5“
The one thing that is clear about AFM is that the majority of cases of the paralytic disorder have been reported between August and October each year, leading some media sources to now refer to the approaching “season” for AFM.1 3 6 7 8
In a recent article in Medscape, Megan Brooks wrote:
Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) typically spikes in the late summer to early fall “season,” but federal health officials are already warning clinicians to be on high alert for the paralyzing disorder, which has struck 11 young children so far this year.6
The average age of children who have been diagnosed with AFM is four years old.9
1 Hackett DW. CDC Seeks Help Finding AFM Cases in 2019 Precision Vaccinations July 11, 2019.
2 Nedelman M. 11 cases of polio-like illness AFM confirmed in eight states in 2019, CDC says. CNN July 9, 2019.
3 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. AFM Cases in U.S. CDC.gov June 24, 2019.
4 Cáceres M. AFM Compared to Guillain-Barré Syndrome. The Vaccine Reaction Nov. 21, 2018.
5 Cáceres M. How Quickly AFM Has Been Overshadowed by Measles. The Vaccine Reaction May 15, 2019.
6 Brooks M. AFM ‘Season’ Starts With 11 Cases, CDC Urges Docs to Be Vigilant, Report Early. Medscape July 9, 2019.
7 Daly J. CDC warns that season of AFM paralysis cases in children is approaching. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette July 9, 2019.
8 Thompson D. CDC: Polio-like Illness in Kids May Be On Its Way. HealthDay July 9, 2019.
9 CDC. Transcript for CDC Telebriefing: Update on Acute Flaccid Myelitis (AFM) in the U.S. CDC.gov Oct. 17, 2018.