What is AFM?

Three children in Pittsburgh are suspected of having the rare disease

Shelby Cassesse
October 10, 2018 - 7:58 pm

PITTSBURGH (Newsradio 1020 KDKA) - Little is known about Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), a rare disease that affects the nervous system.

Three children at UPMC Children's Hospital are suspected of having AFM, while 38 others in 16 states have been diagnosed recently. Doctors have seen a slight increase in cases since August 2014, with many of them found in children.

Director of the Allegheny County Health Department Dr. Karen Hacker says medical professionals are still trying to figure out what causes AFM.

"While they have been looking for all different types of possible infectious reasons for this, they have not really been able to figure what's causing this, and there may be multiple causes."

Symptoms of AFM are comparable to polio, including numbness of the limbs, facial drooping and slurred speech. 

Medical Epidemiologist Dr. Kristen Mertz says information is limited on prevention methods or a cure. 

"There's no specific vaccination that will prevent this. Polio has been known to cause this kind of paralysis, but right now we have very good vaccination rates for polio and we haven't had a polio case in this country for a while." 

Mertz still recommends staying up to date on vaccinations and practicing good hygiene to prevent spreading germs.

Anyone experiencing symptoms should seek medical treatment right away.