Texas physicians should report suspected cases of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) to their local health department because of increased cases of the rare spinal condition, state and federal public health officials advise.
Seventeen cases of AFM have been reported this year in Texas, mostly in the state’s most populous counties, says Jennifer Shuford, MD, a consultant to the Texas Medical Association Committee on Infectious Diseases and infectious disease medical officer at the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS). Since 2014, 43 AFM cases have been reported here, mostly in children, officials said.
AFM affects the grey matter of a person’s spinal cord and is marked by sudden weakness in the arms or legs, officials said. It can be difficult to diagnose because it shares symptoms with other neurologic conditions.
“There are a number of viruses that can cause AFM or similar conditions, including enteroviruses, adenoviruses, and West Nile virus,” Dr. Shuford said. “However, in many of the AFM cases, no cause is ever found despite extensive laboratory testing.”
Although physicians are not required to report AFM, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and DSHS are asking that you report all suspected cases to your local health authority, regardless of the patient’s age.
“This will allow DSHS and CDC to better understand incidence, risk factors, and the clinical spectrum of the disease,” Dr. Shuford said. The CDC created a “Job Aid for Clinicians” that describes the specimens and medical information that will be requested at the time the report is made.
The CDC is planning a live presentation that will help physicians identify AFM’s symptoms, and will give more information on how to report suspected cases and the types of specimens to collect. The presentation is planned for 1 to 2 pm (CT) Nov. 13.
You can find more information about AFM on the CDC’s website or by emailing DSHS at feedback.IDCU[at]dshs[dot]state[dot]tx[dot]us.