"Polio-like Illness" Found in At Least 5 California Children

In all five cases, children suffered permanent paralysis but it’s unclear how they contracted the illness.

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    A paralyzing condition is affecting a small number of children in the state of California, researchers said.

    Five children experienced a rapid onset of paralysis in one or both arms or legs, according to a case report described by Stanford University experts at the American Academy of Neurology annual meeting in Philadelphia.

    Researchers are calling this a “Polio-like syndrome,” but reiterated that whatever is afflicting the children is not the polio virus.

    In two of the cases, the children were tested positive for enterovirus-68, which comes from the same family as the polio virus.

    Researchers did not say specifically where they foudn the cases, but said the children are from as far north in California as the Bay Area and as far south as San Diego.

    “In the past decade, newly identified strains of enterovirus have been linked to polio-like outbreaks among children in Asia and Australia. These five new cases highlight the possibility of an emerging infectious polio-like syndrome in California,” said case report author Dr. Keith Van Haren, of Stanford University and a member of the American Academy of Neurology.

    Three of the victims had symptoms of a respiratory illness before paralysis. In all five cases, the paralysis was permanent and it’s unclear how the children contracted the illness.

    “Although poliovirus has been eradicated from most of the globe, other viruses can also injure the spine, leading to a polio-like syndrome,” Van Haren said.

    All five children had been previously vaccinated against polio, researchers said. This means that a vaccination does not protect against this disease.

    According to NBC4’s chief medical editor Dr. Bruce Hensel, since paralysis precedes other symptoms it is important to be on alert for the following:

    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Cough and congestion which further develops into
    • Numbness or weakness

    If these symptoms occur, seek medical help quickly.

    In addition to the five reported cases, experts believe there may be between 20 and 25 unidentified cases — all in the state of California.

    Currently, California is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to see if there are cases outside of the state.

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