This year, 38 cases of AFM had been confirmed in 16 states through August, its latest figures showed.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the condition is not new but a recent influx of cases in 2014 (mostly in California and Colorado) had been linked to the spread of an enterovirus known as EVD68.
"Your typical 2-year-old, before this she was running around telling knock-knock jokes and getting into trouble", said Julia's mother, Katie Payne, who added that the girl's first symptoms resembled those of a common cold. While uncommon, AFM is serious and can lead to paralysis or even death. Unlike polio, there is no vaccine for AFM.
There was a national uptick in AFM cases in 2014.
"The CDC has indicated there might be some increases in cases, and in mid-September we advised health care providers to be vigilant and report to the health department so that we can pass on the information to the CDC", Arnold said. AFM symptoms include sudden muscle weakness in the arms or legs, sometimes following a respiratory illness. There were only 33 reported cases past year, according to the CDC.
Symptoms include arm or leg weakness, loss of muscle tone and reflexes, facial droop/weakness, difficulty moving the eyes, drooping eyelids and difficulty with swallowing or slurred speech.
One victim, 5-year-old Carter Roberts of Chesterfield, Virginia, died last month after developing AFM in 2016.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., urged the CDC to investigate the national uptick of acute flaccid myelitis infections among children in an October 9 letter to CDC Director Robert Redfield, MD.
While the Department of Health said there are no specific recommendations for avoiding AFM, people can take steps to reduce their risks from some known causes with frequent and thorough hand-washing, avoiding close contact with sick people, and cleaning surfaces with a disinfectant, especially those that a sick person has touched. Acute flaccid myelitis is tricky to diagnose and may require tests of spinal fluid, as well as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The viruses that are accounted to cause AFM may be contagious from one person to another or may be spread by a mosquito or other vector depending on which virus causes the AFM.