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Canadian Paediatric Society

Acute flaccid myelitis is serious, but rare: Canadian Paediatric Society

Oct 25 2018


OTTAWA –  With recent cases of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) and Acute Flaccid Paralysis (AFP) making headlines, the CPS wishes to assure parents and caregivers that – while a very serious condition – AFM is exceptionally rare. The likelihood of a child being diagnosed is approximately 1:1,000,000.

The CPS has addressed some common concerns and questions below:

What is AFM, and is it different from AFP?
AFM is a rare condition affecting the nervous system, and occurs most often in children. AFM causes sudden-onset partial paralysis, usually of one or more limbs. Symptoms can include facial droop, muscle weakness, slurred speech and difficulty moving eyes or limbs. Acute flaccid paralysis (AFP) is a broader group of conditions that includes AFM.

What causes AFM?
At this time, the cause of AFM is not known with certainty. Any patient who develops these symptoms should expect to have testing for some viruses and other non-infectious triggers.

When should you seek medical attention?
Seek immediate medical attention if your child has sudden weakness in the arms, legs or face, particularly following symptoms of an upper respiratory infection (i.e. cold or flu-like symptoms) or other viral illness.

How can I protect my children?
The best ways to prevent any viral illness are to:
– Ensure your children are up to date on all vaccinations
– Encourage frequent handwashing, particularly after using the bathroom and before eating
– Sneeze and cough into your elbow, not your hands
– Keep household surfaces clean
– Reduce spread of viruses by keeping your children home from daycare school when they show signs of illness

What is the course of treatment for AFM?
Paediatric neurologists recommend a variety of treatments on a case-by-case basis.

Health professionals are encouraged to report any suspected or confirmed cases to the Canadian Paediatric Surveillance Program, and to their local health authority where reportable.



Related Links:
Government of Canada: Information for Canadians regarding reports of acute flaccid myelitis AFM: The Polio-Like Mystery Illness

About the Canadian Paediatric Society
The Canadian Paediatric Society is a national advocacy association that promotes the health needs of children and youth. Founded in 1922, the CPS represents more than 3,300 paediatricians, paediatric subspecialists and other child health professionals across Canada.

Last updated: Oct 25 2018