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National AFM Day – September 23, 2024

National A.F.M. Day, observed on September 23, is dedicated to raising awareness about acute flaccid myelitis (A.F.M.) — a serious condition of the spinal cord including symptoms like the rapid onset of arm or leg weakness and decreased reflexes, difficulty moving the eyes, speaking, and sometimes swallowing. On certain occasions, patients may experience numbness or pain. Complications resulting from A.F.M. could include trouble breathing. As of 2018, the cause of most A.F.M. cases was still unknown and unclear. More than 90% of recent cases have developed after a mild viral infection such as from enteroviruses.

History of National AFM Day

The medical condition acute flaccid myelitis (A.F.M.) has only been formally tracked since 2014 — with the number of cases spiking in recent years. A group of people based in Texas reported their observation of a similar pattern in 2013 of between one and four cases annually with characteristics similar to polio. In 2014, the C.D.C. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report as well as a C.D.C. Clinician Outreach and Communication Activity conference call identified that many A.F.M. cases had neck, back, or extremity pain, but otherwise, patients generally had normal sensation in their limbs. Several participants in the conference call shared whether pain, later abating, might precede the onset of paralysis.

An October 2014 report described outbreaks in California and Colorado, United States, suggesting that there was a high number of cases nationwide. Diagnosis included a fully detailed medical history, M.R.I. imaging, and the elimination of transverse myelitis or Guillain–Barré syndrome as potential causes. Physicians used an online mailing list to communicate about and compare similar cases in Alabama and Kansas. The largest known series of cases of A.F.M. in the U.S. was in Colorado, with 29 total, 12 of whom had been reported from August and onwards of that year.

The C.D.C. since requested physicians provision of information about cases meeting these criteria: patients diagnosed after August 1, 2014, who are no older than 21 years of age; patients showing the acute onset of focal limb weakness; and patients with a spinal cord lesion largely restricted to gray matter visualized by M.R.I. In November 2018, the C.D.C. reported their investigation of 286 cases, with at least 116 confirmed cases in 31 states in the U.S. The C.D.C. has set up a task force to investigate the causes and find treatments for A.F.M.

National AFM Day timeline

Polio First Discovered

Polio is first discovered by Karl Landsteiner and Erwin Popper.

C.D.C. Established

The United States Center for Disease Control (C.D.C.) is established.

A.F.M. First Described

Acute flaccid myelitis is first described in 2014 when a high number of cases start being reported.

A.F.M. Vaccines are Developed

Vaccines for A.F.M. are developed in 2019.

National AFM Day FAQs

Does A.F.M. go away?

There is no currently known treatment or cure for A.F.M., however, the condition can be managed and prevented by vaccination.

Is A.F.M. contagious?

No, it does not spread from one person to another. The viruses believed to cause A.F.M, however, may be contagious from one person to another or may be spread by a mosquito or other vector depending on which virus causes the A.F.M.

Does A.F.M. go away?

It varies between people and stage of severity — some people may recover fully and quickly, and most people have muscle weakness that lingers for a long time.

How to Observe National AFM Day

  1. Organize a community march

    Show your voice and organize a march in your community in solidarity with people dealing with acute flaccid myelitis. They will surely appreciate it.

  2. Donate to the A.F.M.A.

    Donate some money to the Acute Flaccid Myelitis Association, a charity dedicated to taking care of A.F.M. Any amount will help.

  3. Spread awareness on social media

    Share information about A.F.M. on social media using the #NationalAFMDay hashtag. Get your friends and family to join in.

5 Facts About Acute Flaccid Myelitis

  1. It affects the nervous system

    A.F.M. attacks the nervous system — holding up the spinal cord, causing great discomfort, and greatly reducing motor function in some parts of the body.

  2. It occurs mostly in children

    Most cases of A.F.M. have been found in children.

  3. It is rare but life-threatening

    Though it is an uncommon condition, it is life-threatening and has affected a reasonable number of Americans over the years.

  4. There is no current treatment for it

    There is no currently known treatment or cure for A.F.M., however, the condition can be managed and prevented by vaccination.

  5. It is similar to polio myelitis

    A.F.M. is thought to be somewhat related to poliomyelitis and the latter was widely believed to be a cause of A.F.M. until 2014.

Why National AFM Day is Important

  1. It is an awareness holiday

    National A.F.M. Day is an awareness holiday. It brings much-needed attention to the A.F.M. condition, ways of managing it, and the need to find a cure.

  2. It’s an opportunity to fund research

    This holiday provides an opportunity to fund research towards treatment for A.F.M. See what you can do today to contribute.

  3. It’s an honorable cause

    The awareness campaign behind National A.F.M. Day is an honorable cause and seeks to solve a salient problem. Spreading awareness is one of the ways we can encourage people to help find a solution through donations and funding for research.

National AFM Day dates

2024September 23Monday
2025September 23Tuesday
2026September 23Wednesday
2027September 23Thursday
2028September 23Saturday

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