David J. Phillip, AP
Rachel Scott, left, talks with her son, Braden, in Tomball, Texas on Friday, March 29, 2019. “Everyone is desperate for some magical thing” to cure the kids, said Rachel. Braden developed acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM, in 2016.

SALT LAKE CITY — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a number of warning signs for a potential outbreak of acute flaccid myelitis, which could break out in the fall.

AFM is a rare disease that can affect one’s spinal cord. Symptoms can include weakness in the arms and legs, loss in muscle tone or decreased reflexes.

There have been outbreaks of AFM since 2014, with most cases affecting children in late summer and early fall, according to the CDC.

  • “Improving the understanding of AFM is a public health priority. The overall rarity of this condition and absence of a confirmatory test highlight the need for increased vigilance among providers seeing pediatric patients with acute onset of flaccid limb weakness in the late summer and fall. Ongoing national AFM surveillance will provide an important bridge between research and public health response and will be critical for the development of optimal treatment and prevention recommendations,” according to the CDC.

By the numbers: The CDC released statistics for the AFM outbreaks.

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  • In 2018, there were 233 confirmed cases, which is the largest number since it began monitoring numbers in 2014.
  • 42% of cases were prevalent in the upper limb.
  • 92% of cases reported respiratory or fever within four weeks of limb weakness.

Why it matters: “Prompt recognition, early specimen collection, and reporting of all suspected cases to public health are important goals for AFM national surveillance,” the CDC said.

  • “Early recognition and specimen collection from suspected AFM patients are essential to optimizing pathogen detection and determining whether single or multiple etiologies are responsible for the recent outbreaks,” according to the CDC.