Polio-like disease paralyze dozens of children in California

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Originally published on February 27, 2014

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Dozens of children in California have come down with an unknown, paralyzing illness that displays polio-like symptoms.

Health researchers have identified 25 children in California who have experienced sudden paralysis in one or more limb over the past 18 months. Some cases displayed symptoms of respiratory distress before the onset of paralysis. All have been vaccinated for polio.

In one of the first recorded cases, two-year-old Sofia Jarvis experienced what doctors diagnosed as asthma symptoms. Days later, the girl's left upper arm became paralyzed. Doctors later identified a lesion in her spinal cord. Jarvis, now 4, and the other victims have not shown signs of recovery in their paralyzed limbs.

Two of the cases tested positive for a rare virus called enterovirus-68, which has symptoms similar to polio.

Health officials say that the risk of a major epidemic is low.

"We want to temper the concern because, at the moment, it does not appear to represent a major epidemic but only a very rare phenomenon," Dr. Keith Van Haren, a pediatric neurologist at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford who had studied the cases said in a CNN report.

The children may have been infected with a yet-unknown enterovirus type. "In the past decade, newly identified strains of enterovirus have been linked to polio-like outbreaks among children in Asia and Australia," Van Haren said in a statement.

Polio has been eradicated from the U.S. for more than 30 years. The disease remains active in only three countries: Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nigeria.

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