Polio-like virus paralyzes children in California

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STANFORD, CA – Back in the 1950s, polio was a parent’s worst fear. Now a small group of parents in California are reliving that nightmare.

A polio-like illness is leaving children partially paralyzed. Five cases are confirmed but there are up to 20 additional cases suspected.

For Sofia Jarvis, just four years old, it started with respiratory symptoms.

“She started wheezing suddenly,” mom Jessica Tomei desribes. “She had not had any history of asthma.”

But after a short stint in the hospital, things took a very serious turn.

“Sofia went to the treasure box to grab her toy after seeing the doctor,” Tomei says, “and I saw her left hand — mid-grasp — stop working.”

An MRI showed a lesion on Sofia’s spinal cord, and she hasn’t regained use of her left arm.

So far, doctors are stumped by this mystery illness. All confirmed cases received the polio vaccine.

Still, they urge parents not to panic.

“It’s extremely rare,” says Dr. Keith Van Haren, a pediatric neurologist at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford. “Our suspicion is that this is a virus but that’s unproven. We know it’s not polio virus. There are other viruses that can do this.”

Yeah, doc, it may be rare — but a mystery illness paralyzing kids? Staying calm is easier said than done…

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