Emergence of New Polio-Like Disease Concerns California Doctors

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A new disease similar to polio has emerged in California, so far appearing only on a small scale since 2012, with a total of 20 to 25 children affected. Five children with symptoms of the syndrome were examined in a case study by the American Academy of Neurology (AAN), showing paralysis and loss of limb use. “The five children experience paralysis of one or more arms or legs that came on suddenly and reached the height of its severity within two days of onset. Three of the children had a respiratory illness before the symptoms began,” said a press release from the AAN, which also noted that all five had been vaccinated against the polio virus.

“What we’re seeing now is bad. 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,” said Keith Van Haren, a pediatric neurologist at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital in Palo Alto, California, to USA Today. Van Haren is one of the researchers involved in the study, reporting that while the final count is not in, it’s likely in the area of 25 cases, all restricted to the state of California, with the median age falling at 12.

Both Van Haren and the AAN stressed “that this syndrome appears to be very, very rare” but encouraged parents who noticed paralysis symptoms to immediately take the child to a doctor. So far, the symptoms, once set in, appear to be permanent. The five in the AAN case study all “were treated but their symptoms did not improve and they still had poor limb function after six months.”

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