A rare paralyzing illness is making its way across the country. It’s called Acute Flaccid Myelitis, or AFM, and it’s mainly affecting children.
With the average age affected by AFM this year being only four, parents should be aware of this illness.
“No pain, no fevers, nothing like that, just all of a sudden, they can’t use extremities. And so, I can imagine for a parent how frightening that is,” says Dr. Deborah McMahan, Health Commissioner at the Allen County Health Department.
AFM has similar symptoms to polio, but isn’t the disease.
“They just lose their extremity. Usually an arm or a leg, or both, just become weak. And they’re hyper reflexive so they’re just limp,” says Dr. McMahan.
The CDC is still looking for the cause of AFM
“Until we know what particular agent we’re dealing with, [it’s] really hard to develop any sort of preventative or treatment regimens.”
Even though there is no known cause or treatment for AFM, Dr. McMahan says there are some steps you can take to protect your loved ones.
The first, be aware of the illness.
So far this year, there have been 68 cases of AFM confirmed, with one of those being in Indiana. Due to privacy laws, the Indiana State Department of Health cannot disclose where that case was confirmed.
“When you have something like this that is occurring in a number of states, you really do need to be on the lookout for it.”
Dr. McMahan then suggest making sure your children are up to date on vaccines.
“And the 3rd thing, and this is so not exciting, but it’s really important for parents, even at an early age, to teach children and remind children to wash their hands…The best way to prevent something like this, that we don’t even know what it is, so we can’t prevent it or treat it, wash your hands. And so taking time to really show your kids how to do it is really, really important.”