A mysterious illness resembling polio has left five children paralyzed and made at least 25 children ill so far. Medical officials are worried that there is no cure and that improvement seems very slim in the children ages two to 16.
"The recovery has been, in the best cases, marginal," Emmanuell Waubant, professor of neurology and pediatrics at UCSF told NBC. "In the worst cases, there has been no recovery at all."
All five children left paralyzed live in the San Francisco Bay Area, but that is as far as the similarities go. Two of the children tested positive for human enterovirus-68, which was previously associated with polio-like symptoms, but three of the children did not. The polio virus was eradicated by a vaccine, but some people still carry the enterovirus, which can be either neutral or lead to serious illness.
"What we're seeing now is bad," Keith Van Haren, a pediatric neurologist at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital in Palo Alto, California told USA Today. "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."
"This is really very rare," Van Haren added. "But we are asking any families who notice a sudden onset of weakness to see their doctors immediately. Their doctors should contact the California Department of Public Health. We don't have a final case count, but it's probably in the neighborhood of 25 cases, all in California."
It's important to note that testing has ruled out polio for all the children, which should ease some fears given the nature of the polio illness, which was extremely contagious. Unfortunately, doctors are unable to treat this newest virus. Van Haren believes that there are more cases across the nation but doctors have not put the symptoms together yet, which is why the majority of cases are in California. He does have hope that with collaboration, doctors may find a way to combat the virus.