Michigan confirms first 2020 case of rare ‘polio-like’ illness in Macomb County child

2 other cases being monitored

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DETROIT – Michigan has confirmed its first case of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) in 2020, a rare condition that attacks the nervous system, specifically in children.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Service (MDHHS) confirmed the first case in a child in Macomb County. Two others possible cases are being monitored.

As of June 30, the CDC had confirmed 13 cases of AFM in 10 states for 2020, mostly in children. Despite increases in cases across the country since 2014, the CDC estimates that less than one to two in a million children in the United States will get AFM annually. In 2018, Michigan reported five cases and one case in 2019.

“AFM is a rare but serious condition affecting the nervous system and can cause the muscles and reflexes in the body to become weak,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health. “Most patients report having a mild respiratory illness or fever consistent with a viral infection before developing AFM.”

The cause or trigger for AFM is not yet known. However, most children had a respiratory illness or fever consistent with a viral infection before they developed AFM. You can decrease risk of getting viral infections by:

  • Washing your hands often with soap and water.
  • Avoiding touching your face with unwashed hands.
  • Avoiding close contact with people who are sick.

Healthcare providers are asked to report all patients they suspect of having AFM to their local health department.

More on AFM:

This information is from the CDC:

  • Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) is an uncommon but serious neurologic condition. It affects the nervous system, specifically the area of the spinal cord called gray matter, which causes the muscles and reflexes in the body to become weak.
  • We have seen increases in AFM cases in the U.S. every other year starting in 2014.
  • Most AFM cases (more than 90%) have been in young children.
  • You may hear AFM referred to as a “polio-like” condition, but all the stool specimens from AFM patients that we received tested negative for poliovirus. The cases of AFM since 2014 are not caused by poliovirus.
  • Sudden onset of arm or leg weakness, loss of muscle tone, and loss of reflexes are the most common symptoms.


There is no specific treatment for AFM, but a clinician who specializes in treating brain and spinal cord illnesses (neurologist) may recommend certain interventions on a case-by-case basis. For example, neurologists may recommend physical or occupational therapy to help with arm or leg weakness caused by AFM. Physical rehabilitation might improve long-term outcomes if implemented during the initial phase of illness.

CDC is working closely with national experts to better understand how to treat AFM and will update our clinical management considerations with new information when available. We are also working to understand the long-term outcomes (prognosis) of people with AFM.

How does it spread?

AFM affects mainly children and is not believed to be contagious. It may be a rare complication following a viral infection, and environmental and genetic factors may also contribute to its development.

CDC has tested many different specimens from AFM patients for a wide range of pathogens (germs) that can cause AFM. To date, no pathogen (germ) has been consistently detected in the patients’ spinal fluid; a pathogen detected in the spinal fluid would be good evidence to indicate the cause of AFM since this condition affects the spinal cord.

About the Author:

Ken Haddad is the digital content manager for WDIV / ClickOnDetroit.com. He also authors the Morning Report Newsletter.