The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is warning parents and medical professionals that 2020 will be another peak year for cases of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) a rare, polio-like neurological condition that affects mostly children.
Since 2014, AFM has peaked in the United States every two years between August and November. The last outbreak hit the U.S. in the fall of 2018.
Gillette Children’s pediatric rehabilitation medicine physician, Mark Gormley, MD, says it’s important for parents to know an outbreak is on the horizon so they can be vigilant and act quickly if their child is showing symptoms of AFM.
AFM symptoms can be easily missed
“It can be easy for parents who are not aware of AFM to miss some of these classic symptoms,” Gormley says.” That’s because it typically hits children who are very young. Parents who don’t know the basics about AFM might assume their toddler is tired when they’re actually showing symptoms of AFM.”
The CDC warns AFM can progress rapidly over the course of hours or days and could lead to permanent paralysis and/or the life-threatening complication of respiratory failure. CDC officials urge parents who suspect their child might have AFM to get care immediately because delays can lead to serious complications.
Quick treatment is the key to recovery
“If a parent notices their child is not walking or moving correctly between now and the end of November they need to immediately contact a health care provider or take their child to an emergency room so they can be screened for AFM,” Gormley advises. “The faster a child who has AFM is treated the better the outcome for that child.”
AFM is diagnosed by examining a person’s nervous system, taking a MRI scan and testing cerebral spinal fluid. The Minnesota Department of Health reports all recent cases in the state have been in children under 10 years old.
Gillette is an important center for AFM care and rehab
Gillette Children's is widely recognized for its expertise in AFM care, treatment and rehabilitation. In fact, most Minnesota children diagnosed with AFM during the last outbreak in 2018 received care from Gillette. The expert team includes the pediatric medicine team, several pediatric neurologists, and many rehabilitation therapists.
Gillette pediatric rehabilitation medicine physician, Angela Sinner, DO, wants parents to know that although a diagnosis of AFM can be daunting, Gillette has a strong team of expert physicians to help families in need.
“This is where Gillette’s coordinated care model can shine and really help to serve families,” Sinner says. “We’re able to help AFM patients through each stage of their recovery journey. We have a team of specialists ready to help. At Gillette we’re used to treating complex and rare conditions—it’s the core of our mission. It truly is what we’re here to do.”
Gormley agrees and adds, “Gillette is a premier institution to treat short and long term rehabilitation needs. We have cutting edge technology and comprehensive treatment programs to help people diagnosed with AFM maximize their motor function and recovery.”