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Polio-like disease appears in California children


STANFORD, Calif. (AP) - An extremely rare, polio-like disease has appeared in more than a dozen California children within the past year, and each of them suffered paralysis to one or more arms or legs, Stanford University researchers say. But public health officials haven't identified any common causes connecting the cases.

The illness is still being investigated and appears to be very unusual, but Dr. Keith Van Haren at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford University warned Monday that any child showing a sudden onset of weakness in their limbs or symptoms of paralysis should be immediately seen by a doctor.

"The disease resembles but is not the same as polio," he said. "But this is serious. Most of the children we've seen so far have not recovered use of their arm or their leg."

But doctors are not sure if it's a virus or something else, he said. Van Haren said he has studied five cases from Monterey up through the San Francisco Bay Area, including two that were identified as the disease enterovirus-68, which is from the same family as the polio viruses. He said there have been about 20 cases statewide.

"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," he said, noting similar outbreaks in Asia and Australia.

But for some children, like Sofia Jarvis, 4, of Berkeley, rare doesn't mean safe.

She first developed what looked like asthma two years ago, but then her left arm stopped moving, and it has remained paralyzed ever since.

"You can imagine. We had two boys that are very healthy, and Sofia was healthy until that point," said her mother, Jessica Tomei. "We did not realize what we were in store for. We did not realize her arm would be permanently paralyzed."

Van Haren, who diagnosed Sofia, said polio vaccines do not protect children from the disease, but he stressed that it is still important for children to receive that vaccine.

Dr. Jane Seward of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta said Monday that the research is still underway in California, and there are a variety of infectious diseases that can cause childhood paralysis.

Any of a number of illnesses could be at work, and it's possible some of the cases had one infection and some had another. Regarding the presence of EV-68 in at least two cases, "it could be an incidental finding," Seward said.

Until officials get more information, Seward said they are not looking around the country for similar cases of EV-68.

The California Department of Public Health has not identified any common causes that suggest that the cases are linked, said Dr. Gil Chavez, the deputy director of the Center for Infectious Disease and state epidemiologist.

"Physicians and public health officials who have encountered similar illnesses have submitted 20 reports to CDPH, and CDPH has conducted preliminary tests on 15 of these specimens," he said. "Thus far, the department has not identified any common causes that suggest that the cases are linked."

University of California, San Francisco, neurology professor Emmanuelle Waubant said doctors believe, but don't have proof, that it's a virus that for most children shows up only as a benign cold. She said a few children, due to their biological makeup, are having much more serious symptoms and she hoped doctors would look for them.

"For a lot of the neurologists who have trained in the last 30 years, it's extremely rare to see polio or polio-like syndrome," she said.

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pate55 February 25 2014 at 1:41 PM

Doesn't surprise me that these strange diseases/virus are coming to the states since we have 20-40 million Illegal Aliens that our government has let in and have no Immunizations like Americans were required to have growing up. Another nasty secret our government has kept quiet. Keep those Illegals coming and we'll be wiped out from disease.

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classicswoman pate55 February 25 2014 at 2:37 PM

it is true that the influx of aliens into our country without "Ellis Island" screening has greatly affected the health of the United States. I was a Medical Center Rep for the Pharmaceutical Co. that manufactured polio vaccine for 26 years. At first there was the 'Killed" vaccine given by injection which needed booster shots, and then there was the "live" polio vaccine given by mouth that cause lifetime immunity. The problem was that the caretakers of immigrant infants who were given the live vaccine, passed live polio virus in their stool for a period of time. The child and vaccinated caretakers were perfectly fine. The non-immunized caretakers who did not wash their hands got polio from changing the children's diapers. Then there were the lawsuits. Lots of lawsuits which averaged 20 million per case. The FDA refused to let this one company stop making the vaccine, even when faced with bankruptcy. The lawsuits added up to more than the company made in gross dollars from the sales of the vaccine. Finally the rules were changed to
a return to the killed vaccine by shot, then administering the live vaccine after the child was potty trained. This still left a number of people with polio for the rest of their lives. All from not receiving the vaccine at the time they entered the United States: Not to mention resistant TB, various outbreaks of really ugly parasites, and the outbreak of leprosy (now called Hansen's Disease) in at least one LA suburban community. This is why we need to screen people who are coming here to live-to protect us all from these life threatening and life altering diseases!

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IBruzEZ February 25 2014 at 7:28 PM

So many cases in one area. Looks like it could involve a mutant virus/bacteria or some type of contamination. Sad for the families. Pray they find out what the heck is causing all this.

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Welcome Helen February 25 2014 at 6:53 PM

I trul;y hope they find the source and are able to eradicate it quickly. I lived through what polio can do as I lost my Dad to it.

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rreggaeredkc Welcome Helen February 25 2014 at 7:18 PM

I had a friend with polio who was an Occupational Therapist. Her left lower extremity lost all sensation permanently and her gait is still ataxic. However, she went on to med school and got her MD. Continued her practice for many years as long as she was able. Whatever this is, I hope for us to figure it out soon!

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moonsongnui February 25 2014 at 4:23 PM

Some people get sick after getting the flu shot. Is it possible the Polio shot contained this virus but took awhile to show up? Especially since the children having these problems are in the same state. My heart goes out to the children and their families, hopefully there will be a cure soon.........

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Anne February 25 2014 at 5:06 PM

This is simple. Go back and check the last meds or shots she was given. That's the cuprit.

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dancemom1 February 25 2014 at 5:08 PM

Not taking my grand kids to California!

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Susie February 25 2014 at 5:09 PM

This is a very scarey thing - I had polio in the 1950's & now ssuffering signs of post -polio- This out break is NOT good -

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barbmatson9 February 25 2014 at 5:12 PM

Check the area if it had been sprayed for citrus fly, so many north of us were making placards to protest, but to no avail. It was banned from the news. We were sprayed in Borrego Springs and paralysis was one of the results along with symptoms that resembled heart attacks and those affected were air lifted to Palm Springs Since the dr's didnot know about the spray, the couldnt test for pesticides because it has to be done within a time frame on a certain machine.A young family came from where they had sprayed and the next morning the father around 60, mounted his bycicle and had a heart attack and died. I was with the family the night before. Five heart attacks, in just a week. The pharmacist asked my friend what was the run on heart attack medicine all about ,there were so many requesting it from the symptoms they were experiencing. Flu symtoms paralysis ,heart attacks, coughs, and weakness . We all protested because they were spraying our citrus in our back yards with out warning us and giving us a choice. They insisted it didn't have effects, but warned us to take our pets in. The spray was from Bayer, and they sprayed all of So. California. It was to be a preventive measure and they assured us it was not harmful. Are you kidding, when is spray not harmful. It is for killing whether they want to believe it or not. One of the air lifted patients was pronounced dead on the way to the hospital, and when she recovered was accused of taking drugs. She had collapsed by the libray where they had just sprayed. then told if she accused the sprayers she would not be warned that their was going to be a spraying in her neighborhood the next time. Another dear friend woke up the morning after they sprayed her citrus and was totally paralized for a day. not knowing why. They promised they would print the time of our information meeting in the paper, they did not and only 6 of us showed up. This is an organic market public and we did not want the spray and could do nothing about it. They eventually printed a map where the spray would take place and told us we could / leave if we were sensitive. Our dogs and cats became sick as well for a few days. All but 2 of the heart attack victims recovered of the friends that I knew. How many did I not know or didn't know what the spray could do.

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kjasperkc February 25 2014 at 5:13 PM

Polio-like? It probably is a mutated form of that virus. Horrible.

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JedEyeMaster February 25 2014 at 5:14 PM

Checked the vaccine records of all ?

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