News / Health

Mysterious Polio-Like Illness Found in California Children

FILE - A researcher works near a blood test machine, Jan. 3, 2011.
FILE - A researcher works near a blood test machine, Jan. 3, 2011.
TEXT SIZE - +
Jessica BermanVOA News
Over the past 18 months, as many as 25 children in California have been stricken with a mysterious polio-like virus that has caused paralysis in five of the youngsters.  The paralytic illness is caused by a virus in the same family as polio.

Polio has been eradicated from most of the globe, including the United States, following the development of a vaccine in the mid-1950’s.  Outbreaks have been reported in countries that include Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria.

Experts were surprised and extremely concerned when more than two dozen children in southern California and the San Francisco Bay area came down with a mysterious pathogen that, like polio, attacked the central nervous system, causing paralysis.  So far, investigators say five children have permanently lost the use of one or more limbs.

Doctors suspect a virus is to blame, but have not confirmed its presence in all of the children.  They have identified enterovirus-68 - in the same family as the polio virus - as the culprit in only two of the cases.

While there are more than 100 enteroviruses throughout the world, ENV-68 is rare, says Steven Tracy, a professor of pathology and microbiology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha.   Rarer still, he said, is the development of paralysis in children who become infected. “Enteroviruses are very common and cause a lot of minor diseases, colds and that sort of thing,” he explained.

Newly identified strains of enterovirus have been reported among children in Asia and Australia, causing polio-like syndromes.

The polio vaccine does not protect against ENV-68 because they are two different types of enterovirus.  Tracy, however, said a preventive drug could be developed quickly using the polio vaccine as a model.

“It’s quite possible.  We know how to develop enterovirus vaccines now from the yeoman work that went into developing the polio vaccines, both the injectable and the oral mouth ones,” said Tracy.

Because there are so few cases of ENV-68 infection, Tracy said drug companies are unlikely to begin work on a vaccine anytime soon.

Meanwhile, doctors and public health officials continue to stress that paralysis from ENV-68 is extremely rare; but, they say parents should rush their children to a doctor anytime they see signs of weakness appear suddenly.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid