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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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michaelfb68 February 26 2014 at 7:55 AM

They say there is no link, but I bet there are many. Just start with the cross-section of vaccines and go from there. 25 kids, one large area, same symptoms.... Seriously? Anyone who doesn't think this is vaccine driven either makes them, lobbies for them, or isn't paying attention.

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ejmmrm February 26 2014 at 3:41 AM

Reading this, I was wondering if all the children who came down with this condition in the various localities where this condition has surfaced had been given the polio vaccine at some point, earlier in their lives. A susceptibility to something in the vaccine perhaps, or maybe a bad batch. ???

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bcshane February 26 2014 at 3:21 AM


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jostories February 26 2014 at 5:45 AM

Guillian Barre is self limiting and does not have residual long term effects.

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proteus12544 February 26 2014 at 2:08 AM

This this the second story in a short time involving odd medical things involving children. There is this and then a week or so ago there was a story about a bunch of babies in one area that are being born with pieces of their skulls missing. Just seems odd that suddenly there are "breakouts" of things that are rare or in this case no one know what it is exactly. I hate to be a conspiracy theorist but....something is going on.

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steelarc10 February 26 2014 at 2:05 AM

Nice we have so many useful comments from the non medical field. The logic is mind bogglllllingggg.

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SRJimVal2 February 26 2014 at 1:57 AM

Illegal immigrants can enter without being inoculated against various strains of very ugly diseases. How many of the 11 million carry?

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mitch February 26 2014 at 7:30 AM

11 mil? over 25 million more like it.

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Darla Shine February 26 2014 at 1:49 AM

Girl gets polio vaccine.
Girl's arm twists and goes dead.
Pretty easy to figure out.
But 20 kids in the same area?
Sounds like a bad batch of the vaccines.
I hope these parents have hired a lawyer.

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Dorothy February 26 2014 at 1:32 AM

The polio vaccine should be given to those that haven't gotten it.


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Mary Freeman February 26 2014 at 1:15 AM

Have they looked at Guillain Barre? I went to see many drs and emergency rooms when my legs began to feel paralyzed to the point of not being able to walk. I could not eat and the pain was beyond extreme, it was a horrible experience, many drs did not recognize GBS because it is so extremely rare. It must be considered.

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Doc February 26 2014 at 12:54 AM

You have about as much chance of finding a real doctor in America these days as you have of winning the lottery. Just take a look at this article. The vaccines don't work but you should have them anyway? What kind of snake oil are they pushing on us? That's like the dentist stabbing you for a half hour with steel hooks and telling you if you brushed more you wouldn't be bleeding. I would ask when the doctors became such hacks but here's a better question, why are we still going to them. Who cares about Obama Care? Getting a good price on bad medicine is no bargin no matter how you slice it.

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mary_baker14 February 26 2014 at 1:36 AM

He said that the vaccine for polio does not work for this disease, but that children should still be getting the polio vaccine. Slow down and read thoroughly before you start ranting and raving.

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