Acute Flaccid Myelitis (AFM)

Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) is a rare but serious condition. This condition affects the spinal cord and causes muscles and reflexes to become weak.

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Symptoms of AFM


    The most common symptoms are arm or leg weakness and loss of muscle tone and reflexes.

Some people will also have:


Facial droop or weakness


Difficulty moving eyes or drooping eyelids


Difficulty swallowing or slurred speech

These symptoms can also include pain in the arms or legs. In rare cases people may also have numbness or tingling and/or be unable to pee. Severe cases of AFM can cause issues with breathing or even death.


Possible Causes of AFM

  • Most patients with AFM had a mild respiratory illness or fever with a viral infection before they develop AFM.
  • It is unknown why a small number of people develop AFM after a respiratory illness.
  • Federal CDC tested many specimens from AFM patient to try and narrow down the cause of AFM. For most cases, federal CDC did not find any pathogens in their spinal fluid.
  • All stool samples from AFM patients tested negative for poliovirus.

    Prevention of AFM

    Since the cause of AFM is unknown, there is no specific action to take to prevent AFM. You can decrease the risk of getting and spreading viral infections by:

  • Keeping up to date on all vaccinations
  • Washing hads with soap and water
  • Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces, toys, and doorknobs
  • Covering coughs and sneezes
  • Keeping sick children at home

    AFM Toolkit for Providers

  • AFM Guide for Maine Providers (PDF)
  • Job Aid for Maine Physicians (PDF)
  • Federal CDC Vital Signs Report External site disclaimer
  • AFM Frequently Asked Questions by Clinicians and Health Departments External site disclaimer
  • Federal CDC Specimen Submission Information and Form External site disclaimer
  • AFM Patient Summary Form (Word) also as PDF External site disclaimer

    Additional Resources

  • Federal CDC's AFM Website External site disclaimer