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Illness paralyzes five kids in California. Polio-like virus has grim prognosis

Polio-like illness has paralyzed five kids in California, according to a Feb. 23 USA Today report. The mystery disease has perplexed the California Department of Public Health, which believes as many as 25 other children have been affected by an unknown enterovirus. Sadly, unless a cure is found, those infected with the mysterious ailment don't face a good cure outlook.

 Polio vaccine is seen at an immunization postAugust 30, 2005 in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Photo by Dimas Ardian/Getty Images

Watch video above of others paralyzed by mystery diseases/conditions.

California health officials have been investigating the emergence of the disease for over a year now. The illnesses paralyzed five kids, mostly between the ages of 2 and 16. All of those suffer from paralysis or loss of use of one or multiple limbs. And like the polio virus, doctors fear it could ultimately involve the respiratory system.

Sofia Jarvis, 2-years-old at the time, is the first known patient who was identified with the paralyzing condition. In 2012, the girl's mother rushed her to the hospital after she suddenly began wheezing and vomiting. Doctors diagnosed her with asthma at the time and treated her accordingly. Four days later, she was discharged.

But her mother was never satisfied with the findings. Soon thereafter, the little girl lost the use of her arm. An MRI shocked her pediatric doctor, who referred her to a specialist for further testing.

Lo and behold, the young girl was found to have a form of the polio virus. However, because the disease, which ravished populations across the United States in the '50s, was eradicated, thanks to a polio vaccine by Dr. Jonas Salk, doctors didn't associate Sofia's condition with it. Nevertheless, as her condition continued to deteriorate, doctors were stumped over what to call the mystery illness or how to effectively treat it.

What's we're seeing now is bad. 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," said Keith Van Haren, a pediatric neurologist at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital in Palo Alto, California.

We don't have a final case count, but it's probably in the neighborhood of 25 cases, all in California," Van Haren added.

Another physician ruled out polio because the girl had not traveled overseas, where the disease is still prevalent in some developing nations.

Of the five patients who became sick by the disease in California, most of them experienced severe loss of limb function and respiratory stress within two days of symptoms. Six months later, none of them have improved.

At this point, doctors and researchers are trying to find an effective vaccine for the infectious enterovirus. The fear is that it could spread throughout California's borders and balloons into a worrisome epidemic.

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