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 toldScientific 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)
UNICEF LAUNCHES 2014 STATE OF THE WORLD’S CHILDREN REPORT
Thirty years have passed since The State of the World’s Children began to publish tables of standardized global and national statistics aimed at providing a detailed picture of children’s circumstances.
Much has changed in the decades since the first indicators of child well-being were presented. But the basic idea has not: Credible data about children’s situations are critical to the improvement of their lives – and indispensable to realizing the rights of every child.
Data continue to support advocacy and action on behalf of the world’ 2.2 billion children, providing governments with facts on which to base decisions and actions to improve children’s lives. And new ways of collecting and using data will help target investments and interventions to reach the most vulnerable children.
Data do not, of themselves, change the world. They make change possible – by identifying needs, supporting advocacy, and gauging progress. What matters most is that decision-makers use the data to make positive change, and that the data are available for children and communities to use in holding duty-bearers to account.
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As of today, India has gone three years without a single case of wild poliovirus, which means it’s now officially polio-free. Indiaâ’s achievement is one of the most impressive accomplishments in global health, ever.
Wiping out malaria is a top goal for many leaders in global health.
Fewer people are dying now from the mosquito-borne disease than at any other time in history. “And there’s a very, very strong belief now that malaria can be eliminated,” says Joy Phumaphi, who chairs the African Leaders Malaria Alliance.
But when you look at the overall numbers on malaria, eradication almost seems like a pipe dream.
In 2010, malaria was ranked as the seventh biggest killer in the developing world. More than200 million people got malaria in 2012, and more than 600,000 of those infected died.
So why are global health leaders so optimistic about someday ending malaria? Perhaps because there has been a precedent. And it happened right here in the U.S.
The federal government drove out malaria from the American South in the early part of the 20th century. And the lessons learned from that successful campaign could help control the disease in developing countries, says Daniel Sledge, a political scientist at the University of Texas, Arlington.
"It’s almost impossible for us to imagine," Sledge says. "But in the rural South, as late as the 1930s, the extent of malaria was in many ways comparable to what it is today in sub-Saharan Africa."
Sledge and his colleague recently analyzed archived public records to try to determine what factors helped to eliminate malaria in Alabama.
The findings were surprising. It wasn’t getting people to sleep under insecticide-treated bed nets, or getting better medications to people who do get infected — two major tactics used to control malaria today in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia.
Instead, the parasite left the U.S., in large part, because the government destroyed mosquito breeding grounds.
"The primary factor leading to the demise of malaria was large-scale drainage projects, which were backed up by the creation of local public health infrastructure," he says. Sledge and his colleague described their findings this September in the American Journal of Public Health.
To wipe out mosquito breeding grounds, the U.S. government had to dig more than 30,000 miles of drainage ditches and canals, the Pan American Health Organization reported in 1963. So this strategy comes with its own set of problems, including damage to the environment.
Large-scale drainage projects aren’t central to most malaria control programs in Africa and Asia today. But Sledge thinks the American experience with the parasite could be instructive for efforts to wipe out the disease globally.