Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) has caused concern here in Georgia and around the country this year as the number of cases of the disease has seen an unexplained spike.
The illness starts off with regular viral symptoms such as a sore throat or runny nose. But, when the illness worsens it can cause paralysis. Parents usually see child's loss of use in an arm or leg.
As top doctors and researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention work to learn more about this mystery disease there is some encouraging news.
Dr. Amy Moore, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon who specializes in peripheral nerve injury, hand and upper extremity surgery, pediatric nerve and hand surgery, and brachial plexus surgery at St. Louis Children’s Hospital has operated on 10 children with AFM, one of them from metro Atlanta with success.
The procedure involves cutting and transferring a healthy nerve to the end of an injured nerve to restore movement or sensation.
She says her nerve transplant surgery is exciting because children who were unable to move their legs are showing motion. "My goal with the children with AFM was to restore hip stability, and then motion of the upper legs," she said.
There have been confirmed cases in 25 states, including Georgia.
Symptoms of AFM:
Most people will have sudden onset of arm or leg weakness and loss of muscle tone and reflexes.
Some people, in addition to arm or leg weakness, will have: facial droop/weakness, difficulty moving the eyes,drooping eyelids, or difficulty with swallowing or slurred speech. Numbness or tingling is rare in people with AFM, although some people have pain in their arms or legs. Some people with AFM may be unable to pass urine . The most severe symptom of AFM is respiratory failure that can happen when the muscles involved with breathing become weak. This can require urgent ventilator support. In very rare cases, it is possible that the process in the body that triggers AFM may also trigger other serious neurologic complications that could lead to death.