About Acute Flaccid Myelitis

  • Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) is a rare but serious condition. It affects the nervous system, specifically the area of the spinal cord called gray matter, which causes the muscles and reflexes in the body to become weak.
  • We have seen increases in AFM cases every two years since 2014 and mostly in young children.
  • You may hear AFM referred to as a “polio-like” condition, but all the stool specimens from AFM patients that we received tested negative for poliovirus.
The nervous system: brain, spinal cord, and nerves

Man holding his wrist

Sudden arm or leg weakness and loss of muscle tone and reflexes is the most common symptom.

Mother helping child wash her hands

We think viruses likely play a role in AFM.

Doctor examining little girl's elbow

AFM is diagnosed by doing a physical exam and reviewing pictures of the spinal cord.

For parents who have a child with AFM

CDC understands that parents who have had a child diagnosed with AFM have many concerns and questions. AFM is a serious condition that can be difficult for children and their parents or caregivers. You are in the best position to be an advocate for your child.

  • Talk to the doctor about any discomfort your child may have and ask about treatment options.
  • Ask your child’s school about resources they may have to accommodate this illness.
  • Spending time with others is also an important part of well being and recovery. Encourage friends and family to spend time with your child if they feel well enough for visitors.
  • Share questions you have by sending them to CDC-INFO.

For patient resources, please see:
Transverse Myelitis Association Resourcesexternal icon