National AFM Day Date in the current year: September 23, 2022

National AFM Day National AFM Day, also known as National Acute Flaccid Myelitis Day, is observed on September 23. It was created to raise awareness of a rare spinal cord condition that was recognized in 2014.

Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) is a rare neurological condition that affects the spinal cord. It involves damage to gray matter in the spinal cord, which results in limb weakness that has a rapid onset, decreased reflexes, and sometimes paralysis. Other symptoms may include numbness or pain in the limbs, gait abnormalities, facial weakness, neck or back pain, headaches, difficulty swallowing, talking, or moving the eyes, and trouble breathing.

Acute flaccid myelitis has been tracked and studied since 2014. The exact cause of the disease is unclear, but most cases have developed after a mild viral infection, for example, hand, foot and mouth disease (a common infection caused by certain enteroviruses). There is a seasonal pattern in AFM outbreaks: notable increases have occurred in the late summer or early fall. AFM can affect people of any age, but the majority of AFM patients are young children.

AFM can be confused with other neurological conditions such as acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, Guillain–Barré syndrome, and transverse myelitis. Diagnosis is usually based on the patient’s previous medical history (as we’ve mentioned, AFM cases are usually preceded by a viral infection), MRI, a nerve conduction study, and laboratory testing of the cerebral spinal fluid. 

Acute flaccid myelitis can have different outcomes. Some of those affected by AFM have made full recovery; a number of patients with mild and moderate cases have made a partial recovery from temporary limb weakness but still suffer from permanent fatigue. Those with more severe cases haven’t had much progress with recovery. At least two patients died; both were severely immunocompromised.

Since AFM is a newly discovered, rare, and still insufficiently-researched disease, it has no cure yet. AFM treatment involves supportive care, which usually includes physical or occupational therapy. In more severe cases, mechanical ventilation may be required to help patients breathe. It is unclear whether any medications are useful for AFM patients.

Acute flaccid myelitis usually has a sudden onset, which can be quite terrifying for those affected and their families. According to statistics provided by CDC, most AFM patients sought emergency care, 98% of them were hospitalized, over half were admitted to the ICU, and a quarter of all hospitalized AFM patients had to be put on a ventilator. It is one of the reasons why raising awareness of AFM is so important.

National AFM Day was created by AFM advocate LaMay Ann Axton. Her goal was to educate the general public about acute flaccid myelitis and raise awareness of the importance of its research. You can observe it by educating yourself about AFM, donating to an organization that funds AFM research or supports AFM patients and their caregivers, and spreading awareness on social media with the hashtag #NationalAFMDay.

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Other Observances

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USA

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National AFM Day, awareness days, observances in the United States, acute flaccid myelitis, National Acute Flaccid Myelitis Day