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Polio-like symptoms inflict California children; emerging virus suspected

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Five children in California have been identified as suffering from polio-like illnesses, which leads researchers to suspect a new enterovirus strain is emerging in the state. According to an American Academy of Neurology Feb. 23 press release, all five children had been vaccinated against polio.

Researchers at Stanford University of Palo Alto reviewed case samples referred to California’s surveillance testing program over a one-year period. In the five identified cases, the children suffered paralysis of one or more limb, with each case reaching its height of severity within two days.

Two of the children tested positive for a know virus, enterovirus-68, but the cause of illness in the other three is unknown. The affected children’s symptoms did not improve with treatment.

New virus strains have been tied to polio-like outbreaks in Asia and Australia over the past decade.

“Although poliovirus has been eradicated from most of the globe, other viruses can also injure the spine, leading to a polio-like syndrome.” — Keith Van Haren, MD, Stanford University in Palo Alto

Dr. Keith Van Haren of Stanford University will present these findings in a case study at the American Academy of Neurology Annual Meeting scheduled for April 26 through May 3 in Philadelphia.

Polio is a crippling, and often fatal disease. An epidemic swept through the United States in the 1950s, with more than 57,000 cases reported in 1952, but was halted by the development of the polio vaccine. There is no cure for polio; eradication measures are based on prevention through vaccination. The United States has been polio-free since 1979, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

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