Doctors have revealed a polio-like illness that had partially paralyzed at least 25 children aged 2 to 16 in California since 2012.
Emmanuelle Waubant, a professor of neurology and pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco on Sunday released their findings on five cases of San Francisco Bay Area children who have yet to recover from the mysterious disease.
Waubant said the disease is not polio, which strikes the nervous system causing paralysis of limbs, because the children were vaccinated against it. But she and her colleague suspect that human enterovirus-68 (HEV-68) is causing the illness.
HEV-68 is a rare form of very common enteroviruses, which cause between 10 million and 15 million infections in the U.S. every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The condition, like polio, causes no symptoms or only mild illness, but a fraction of cases can turn terribly serious.
Keith Van Haren, a pediatric neurologist at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital in Palo Alto, encountered the first known case of the illness in a 2-year-old patient in 2012. Sofia Jarvis in Berkeley began to experience wheezing and difficulty breathing which doctors at the Children’s Hospital Oakland thought was asthma. When the girl’s left arm got paralyzed, her mother brought her to van Haren’s clinic.