In the United States it’s called acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) and across the pond in England it’s known as acute flaccid paralysis (AFP), but no matter what you call it, it 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.

Image/Robert Herriman
Image/Robert Herriman

In England, as in the US, health officials are reporting an increase in the number of cases in 2018.

According to Public Health England (PHE), 28 cases have been reported in England, the majority of which have been since September. Typically, a handful of cases of AFP are reported to PHE each year for investigation.

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Certain viruses are known to cause AFP including polioviruses and non-polio enteroviruses. Enteroviruses commonly cause mild infections with a range of symptoms including colds, coughs and diarrhoea. Such illnesses from viral infections are common, especially in children, and most people recover. Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) and other viruses have been detected in several cases of AFP so far in 2018. The risk of developing neurological symptoms due to EV-D68, or any other viral infection is extremely low.

Dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisations at PHE said:

AFP is very rare. However, if you or your child develops weakness in any limb you should seek medical care immediately so that appropriate testing and care can be given.

We are investigating potential causes and working hard to build better awareness amongst health care professionals about how to test and manage patients with AFP.

We are ensuring up-to-date information is available for patients and their families who may be affected.

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