Overlooked Virus May Be Cause Of Paralyzing Disease In Californa
Doctors in California are puzzled by an illness that has paralyzed at least five children and may have affected about 20 others.
Sick children had symptoms similar to polio. They lose muscle function in an arm or a leg over a few days.
So far, the children haven’t responded to any treatments and the paralysis has been permanent, doctors from Stanford University and the University of California, San Francisco, said in statement Sunday.
The doctors suspect the culprit is a virus related to one that causes hand, foot and mouth disease. It’s called enterovirus-68, and it was first detected in California more than 50 years ago.
There have been about 50 cases of the enterovirus-68 reported in the U.S. since 2000. It sickened at least 21 children in the Philippines between 2008 and 2009.
Two of the children in California tested positive for the enteroviruses-68. Tests for many of the other cases are still pending.
The report may sound scary. But it’s worth pointing out that the illness is quite rare. There’s little threat the disease will spread, Dr. Jane Seward with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told Scientific American.
Many viruses, including West Nile, echovirus and adenoviruses, can cause paralysis of the limbs, Seward said. So she would expect California to report about 80 paralysis cases each year, if the CDC was looking out for this type of symptom.
"These researchers only report on five cases in the abstract," Seward said. "We are not unduly alarmed," she added.
Sophia Jarvis, 4, of Berkeley, Calif., is one of the few children diagnosed with the polio-like disease, which left her arm paralyzed. She attended a press conference Monday at Stanford University with family and the doctors investigating the disease. (Stanford’s Childern/Twitter)