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Polio-Like Disease Affecting Children in California

Update Date: Feb 24, 2014 09:17 AM EST

According to health officials, there are currently five children from California identified with a polio-like disease that has left them paralyzed. Neurologists had helped identify the five children, who lost functions in one or more limbs from August 2012 to July 2013. The experts stated that all of the children were vaccinated against the poliovirus and treatment did not help with the children's paralysis. Now, the doctors are hoping to gather more information in order to find a better way of treating the patients.

For this research, Dr. Emmanuelle Waubant, a neurologist from the University of California, San Francisco tested samples from the five patients. Two of the patients tested positive for enterovirus 68, which is a rare virus that can cause severe respiratory illness. The other three samples did not provide any more data on the condition because they were either never collected or were not tested fast enough. Due to the lack of information on this polio-like syndrome, the Waubant and her colleagues are asking health care providers to keep an eye out for any similar cases.

"There has been no obvious increase in the pace of new cases so we don't think we're about to experience an epidemic, that's the good news," Dr. Emanuelle Waubant told the BBC News. "But it's bad news for individuals unlucky enough to develop symptoms which tend to be moderate to severe and don't appear to improve too much despite reasonably aggressive treatment."

"We are evaluating cases as they are reported to us," Dr. Carol Glaser, the chief of the Encephalitis and Special Investigation Section at the California Department of Public Health, said to CNN. "We have not found anything at this point that raises any public health concerns."

Poliovirus was first eradicated in the United States during the 1950s. Since then, almost all countries have been declared polio-free with the exceptions of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria. There are many other infections that can cause paralysis. The researchers urge parents to bring their children to a health care professional immediately if they see any signs of paralysis.

Waubant's team plans on presenting a case report about the five children patients at the American Academy of Neurology's annual meeting.

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