Health Update

CDC Releases A Warning For Virus That Can Leave Children Paralyzed

The virus causes Acute Flaccid Myelitis (AFM) and can lead to paralysis. Here’s what you need to know about AFM.

A child in a hospital bed. The CDC is warning parents about AFM, a virus that can lead to paralysis.
Krit of Studio OMG/Moment/Getty Images

This fall, health experts have warned about the pending twindemic with a surge in both Covid-19 and a particularly nasty strain of the flu. Now the CDC is warning about another virus that seems to be affecting kids more than adults. The mysterious illness, called acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), typically affects the neurological system and can lead to paralysis and in some extreme cases can be fatal.

“As of October 19, 2022, there have been 25 confirmed cases in 2022 out of 55 reports of patients under investigation (PUIs),” reads the CDC’s statement on AFM. “There have been 704 confirmed cases since CDC began tracking AFM in August of 2014. CDC has been thoroughly investigating cases since that time. We have seen increases in AFM cases, mostly in young children, in 2014, 2016 and 2018.”

As of October 19, 2022, there have been 25 confirmed cases in 15 states. California and Wisconsin have the highest amount of current reported cases. As to why AFM affects children mores than adults, experts are still unsure. “"Viruses just tend to do different things for different populations and this particular condition, this AFM seems to be almost all kids," said Dr. Dan Beardmore, an SSM Health Pediatric Specialist, told WKOW.

Symptoms of AFM often present at first like a cold or flu, with a fever, but can quickly escalate. Difficulty moving the eyes or drooping eyelids, facial droop or weakness, pain in arms or legs, slurrerd speech, and particularly pain in the back or neck are common symptoms of the virus. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should seek immediate medical attention, according to the CDC.

Several viruses are known to cause AFM, which some compare to polio. West Nile Virus and non-polio enteroviruses have been known to cause AFM.

So what can parents do to keep their kids safe from this rare but serious illness? Frequent hand-washing along with disinfecting common areas is a good start. Keeping up on vaccinations and using insect repellent when outdoors can also help lower the risk of a child contracting AFM.