I've heard of some children having a condition called acute flaccid myelitis. What is it, what causes it and how can I prevent my child from getting it?
Answer From James M. Steckelberg, M.D.
Acute flaccid myelitis is a rare condition that affects the nerves in the spinal cord. It can cause sudden weakness in the arms or legs and other symptoms. It tends to happen mainly in children.
The condition may have various causes. Infection with viruses such as adenovirus, poliovirus, other enteroviruses and West Nile virus may precede it.
Acute flaccid myelitis may be treated by doctors trained in nervous system conditions (neurologists). Therapies specifically for acute flaccid myelitis aren't available, but doctors may suggest physical and occupational therapy to help improve weakness in the arms and legs.
To prevent acute flaccid myelitis, it may help to get your child vaccinated against poliovirus.
You can also help prevent the condition by limiting your child's chances of getting West Nile virus, which is spread through mosquito bites. Using mosquito repellent, avoiding being outdoors at dusk and dawn, and eliminating standing water on your property may protect your child from getting mosquito bites.
It may also help to use commonsense precautions to avoid catching illnesses — such as having your child regularly wash his or her hands with soap and water.
Oct. 23, 2018
See more Expert Answers
- About acute flaccid myelitis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/acute-flaccid-myelitis/about-afm.html. Accessed Oct. 12, 2018.
- Acute flaccid myelitis. Genetics and Rare Diseases Information Center. https://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/diseases/13142/acute-flaccid-myelitis. Accessed Oct. 12, 2018.
- Bitnun A, et al. Acute flaccid paralysis and enteroviral infections. Current Infectious Disease Reports. 2018;20:34.
- Messacar K, et al. Enterovirus D68 and acute flaccid myelitis—Evaluating the evidence for causality. The Lancet. Infectious Diseases. 2018;18:e239.