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Acute Flaccid Myelitis (AFM)

Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) is a rare condition that affects the nervous system, which can result from a variety of causes. AFM is characterized by a sudden weakness of one or more arms or legs, along with loss of muscle tone and decreased or absent reflexes. In some cases, weakness of the face and eyes, difficulty swallowing, or drooping of the eyes, may occur at the same time as the limb weakness. Some patients with AFM may be unable to pass urine. The most severe symptom of AFM is respiratory failure that occurs because the muscles involved in breathing are no longer able to expand or contract due to weakening, which can require the use of breathing machines (ventilator support).

AFM can be caused by a variety of viruses, including poliovirus and other non-polio enteroviruses, adenovirus, and West Nile virus (WNV) as well as viruses in the same family as WNV. Other causes of this condition include autoimmune diseases and exposure to environmental toxins.

How can you prevent AFM from enterovirus and adenovirus?

You can protect yourself and others by the following a few easy steps:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.

Physicians should contact the Acute Disease Service (ADS) epidemiologist-on-call at (405) 426-8710 to report suspected cases of AFM. The ADS epi-on-call will work with the physician to investigate suspected cases, and coordinate specimen collection for laboratory testing (if indicated).

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