A mysterious disease has recently been making the rounds in California. A small number of children have been diagnosed with polio-like symptoms and medical professionals are still trying to unravel the mystery behind the enigmatic affliction.
Cases of this currently unidentified disease have been documented as early as 2012. Patients have been experiencing paralysis of one or more limbs, a symptom commonly associated with polio. However, polio has been almost completely eradicated in the U.S., leaving medical professionals scratching their heads in confusion.
The children who have been diagnosed with the disease were between 3 to 13 years of age. The number of identified cases has already reached around 20 children and many of the patients have exhibited signs of permanent paralysis. The onset of paralysis takes place quickly and in some of the cases, the paralysis was preceded by mild respiratory problems.
"We know definitively that it isn't polio," said Dr. Keith Van Haren, a pediatric neurologist from the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital run by Stanford University. Scientists were able to rule out polio because the confirmed cases included children who have been vaccinated against polio in the past.
Medical professionals from the California Department of Public Health and the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital are working to understand the unknown syndrome. The team will be presenting its findings, including the case files of 5 children, at the upcoming annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in Philadelphia.
The 5 cases to be presented at the coming meeting, include children suffering from paralysis of one or more limbs. Moreover, the paralysis affecting the children reached maximum severity within a mere two days from the onset of the initial symptoms. Unfortunately, none of the children recovered the use of their limbs even after six months of constant medical care.
State authorities have also ruled out possible causes such as botulism and the West Nile virus. However, two of the total number of affected children tested positive for enterovirus-68. While this virus is usually associated with respiratory problems. It has been known to cause polio-like symptoms in the past.
Despite the two positive cases of enterovirus-68, the researchers are hard pressed to explain the condition of the remaining children. Current theories indicate that the children who tested negative may still have contracted the virus. The doctors working on the problem say that it is possible the virus was not detected due to non-optimal test samples.