Florida is the latest state to record a confirmed case of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), a condition that 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.

afm-state-mapAccording to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 182 confirmed cases of AFM have been reported in 39 states as of Dec. 21.

With AFM, CDC has seen a pattern of higher numbers of confirmed cases every 2 years: In 2014, CDC confirmed about 120 cases of AFM; in 2015, 22 cases; in 2016, the number of confirmed cases increased to 149 and in 2017, the number of confirmed cases was 33.

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Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) is a rare but serious condition that affects the nervous system, causing muscles to weaken. AFM can be caused by a variety of germs (including viruses), environmental factors and genetics.

Symptoms of AFM sometimes follow a viral illness and can include: Sudden muscle weakness in the arms or legs, neck weakness and some other symptoms that patients may have include drooping eyelids or a facial droop, and difficulty swallowing or slurred speech.

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Take these basic steps to help keep you and your family healthy: Wash hands frequently to limit exposure to germs, cover coughs or sneezes, stay home when sick, make sure you and your family are up to date on vaccinations and take steps to prevent mosquito bites.