Puzzling Polio-Like Illness Hits Kids in California

Doctors mystified by at least 25 cases

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Feb 24, 2014 3:17 AM CST | Updated Mar 1, 2014 12:25 PM CST

(Newser) – Public health officials are mystified by an outbreak of a polio-like illness that has left at least 25 children in California with paralyzed limbs. The affected children are hit quickly with severe weakness or paralysis, sometimes after a respiratory illness, the Los Angeles Times reports. The first case surfaced in 2012 and none of the sick children, whose median age is 12, have recovered limb function. Doctors say they're certain it's not polio—which all the children had been vaccinated against—but they suspect it could be a new strain of an enterovirus from the same family as polio.

"What's we're seeing now is bad," a pediatric neurologist tells USA Today. "The best-case scenario is complete loss of one limb, the worst is all four limbs, with respiratory insufficiency, as well. It's like the old polio." The condition is "really very rare," he says. "But we are asking any families who notice a sudden onset of weakness to see their doctors immediately." No cases have been reported outside California, but public health officials say some may surface when doctors nationwide become aware of the condition and start looking for it.

Tests have confirmed that the children with polio-like symptoms do not have polio.
Tests have confirmed that the children with polio-like symptoms do not have polio.   (Shutterstock)
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