News | Published March 26, 2014

Should you be concerned about the polio-like illness in California?

A mysterious, polio-like illness has affected as many as 25 children in California, leaving them paralyzed with no hope of recovery. The first case was identified in 2012 when a child was admitted to the hospital with wheezing and difficulty breathing, progressing to the point of losing use of her limbs. Two years later, the child still has weakness in her left leg, paralysis in her left arm and breathing issues; however, she is still happy and attending preschool.

Although this illness is eerily reminiscent of the polio virus, tests have confirmed that these children do not have polio. Physicians believe the culprit is an enterovirus, a family of viruses that includes polio and hand, foot and mouth disease. While there is a vaccine for polio, there is not one for other enteroviruses, including this one.

This is a scary illness, but, at this point, parents should not panic. At this time, the illness is rare and concentrated in California. California is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to see if there are any cases outside of California. Fortunately, none have been reported.

However, parents should be on the lookout for a sudden onset of weakness or difficulty breathing and if noticed, take their child to a physician immediately. Stay tuned for more information as it becomes available.