Local doctors: Chances of AFM extremely low, despite rising number of cases

Chances are less than 1 in a million

ROANOKE – Concerns are sweeping the nation regarding the mysterious virus that causes paralysis in children. More cases are being reported across the United States.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed 62 cases in 22 states.

The illness, called acute flaccid myelitis, causes various forms of paralysis- much like polio.

Although the number of acute flaccid myelitis cases has been widely talked about over the past two weeks, Dr. Thomas Kerkering, director of infectious control and chief of Carilion’s infectious disease section, said AFM, which is similar to a flu strain actually resurfaces every other year. Alarming symptoms consist of sudden, onset paralysis of a limb.

Kerkering said AFM is most common in children. The average age of those diagnosed is 4 years old.

“That's pretty terrifying. It is terrifying if you are a parent,” Kerkering said.

Since the CDC began tracking AFM in 2014, it’s detected between 22 and 149 cases every year. This year's AFM outbreak is gaining attention because there are 127 suspected cases so far. Kerkering said the typical season for the illness has just begun.

 Kerkering said doctors aren't sure what causes the spinal infection.

“It's definitely not been transmissable from person to person from what the investigation so far has seen. It just occurs,” Kerkering said.

There is also no official cause which means no definite form of treatment, something Roanoke mother Brittany Hoff knows too well after she said her son was diagnosed.

“They told us there was no cure. There was nothing they could do for him, they just had to get the infection out of his body,” Hoff said.


While the CDC has yet to confirm a case in Virginia, Hoff said her son Camdyn was diagnosed with AFM while hospitalized at UVA Medical Center, falling ill with the telltale symptoms.

“At that point his right leg was the only thing moving. His left arm was the only thing moving...still he can't hold his head up,” Hoff said.

According to the CDC 127 people are believed to be sick with the illness. Of these cases, 62 have been confirmed in 22 states. At this point, there appears to be no geographic clusters in the illness.

While the symptoms are scary for parents, it's not likely your child will get it, Kerkering said the odds are less than 1 in a million.

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