Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) is a rare but serious neurological illness that causes muscle weakness, sometimes leading to paralysis. Early detection and collection of specimens can help identify cases and causes of AFM. Below is a collection of information and resources on acute flaccid myelitis, including a PediaLink Education Course.  

Brief Overview

Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) is a rare, polio-like illness. It primarily affects young children, but there have been cases among adolescents and adults. AFM can lead to long-term complications, including paralysis, and in rare cases, death. The most common symptoms of AFM are sudden onset of arm or leg weakness, loss of muscle tone, and loss of reflexes.

Increases in cases of AFM have occurred between August and November in the United States in 2014, 2016, and 2018. These spikes in cases have been attributed to enterovirus outbreaks, particularly EV-D68. The biennial pattern was interrupted in 2020, likely due to the nonpharmaceutical interventions implemented to prevent the spread of COVID-19. It is unclear when or if spikes in AFM cases will occur again.

Early detection and medical support are critical to improve long-term health outcomes of children with AFM. Delays in recognition can put children at risk. Pediatricians and pediatric health care providers who can identify AFM and promptly hospitalize patients are best positioned to provide optimal medical care.

Learn more about Acute Flaccid Myelitis - What Pediatricians Should Know About Diagnosis, Treatment, and Care

AAP and CDC have developed a PediaLink course (six micro-learning sessions) on acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) for pediatricians and pediatric clinicians to enhance prompt recognition, diagnosis, and reporting of AFM cases in the US to local public health departments. This course also provides guidance on acute management, rehabilitation, and long-term care management for patients with AFM. The course and accompanying complementary materials were designed to provide pediatricians and pediatric clinicians with the information they need to care for children and youth with AFM within the context of a medical home and in coordination with their medical team of pediatric health care providers.

Professional Tools & Resources

Podcasts and Voices Blogs

Acute Flaccid Myelitis - Episode 71

Hosts David Hill, MD, FAAP, and Joanna Parga-Belinkie, MD, FAAP, talk to Kevin Messacar, MD, a member of the CDC Acute Flaccid Myelitis Task Force, about ways to recognize and report the condition.

Pediatrics on Call


July 27, 2021

Last Updated



American Academy of Pediatrics