A medical mystery is deepening in California, where state health officials
now say reports of polio-like illnesses that have left as many as 25
children with paralyzed limbs don't appear to be connected.
It's not clear what may be behind the rash of acute infections first
reported Sunday by researchers in a presentation for the American Academy of
Neurology's annual meeting. Tests of 15 of 20 cases submitted by doctors and
researchers have come up empty, according to Dr. Gil Chavez, state
epidemiologist for the California Department of Public Health.
"Thus far, the department has not identified any common causes to suggest
that the cases are linked," he said in a statement. "The investigation is
But that only heightened the resolve of the parents of 4-year-old Sofia
Jarvis, who was the first to be identified as part of the series of
unexplained cases of sudden paralysis in kids ages 2 to 16.
She was barely a toddler two years ago when she was stricken with flu-like
symptoms and trouble breathing — and later realized she couldn't move her
left arm. An MRI later confirmed that she had a spinal cord lesion that was
... "We're seeing them throughout California," he said. "The farthest north is
in the Bay Area and the farthest south is in San Diego."
Van Haren and colleagues from the University of California, San Francisco,
suspect that the illnesses may be caused by a virus, possibly a type of
enterovirus, the same family of virses as poliovirus.
Two of the children in the early reports showed signs of infection with
human enterovirus-68, which has previously been associated with polio-like
symptoms. HEV-68 is a rare form of very common enteroviruses, which cause
between 10 million and 15 million infections in the U.S. every year,
according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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