Rare Polio-Like Disease in California

UCSF and Stanford physicians and researchers report on five cases of polio-like illness in California at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in Philadelphia on April 29, 2014 from 3:00-6:30 p.m. EST.View details.

Over the past 18 months, physicians in California have observed on rare occasions what may be a new disease, one in which patients, usually children, quickly and permanently lose muscle function in an arm or leg.

In some cases, patients have had infectious respiratory symptoms before the paralysis begins. The illness shares some features with polio, but it is not the same disease.

The cause of the disease is still unknown, but a strong possibility is that it is caused by a virus known as enterovirus-68, which was detected in two of five cases that Emmanuelle Waubant, MD, PhD, of UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital, and Keith Van Haren, MD, of Stanford University’s Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, will present in detail at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology this spring.

A similar type of rare paralysis caused by a virus related to enterovirus-68 has been reported for many years in Asia and Australia.

The current illness is extremely rare, and does not represent an epidemic. Only about 25 suspected cases have been identified in the U.S., all in California, a state with a population of 38.3 million people, of whom 9.3 million are under age 18, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. No “clustering” of these cases within a small geographic area has been observed, nor are there any apparent connections between the children affected.

The polio vaccine does not appear to protect against this possibly new disease, but the UCSF and Stanford physicians are advising that children continue to receive the polio vaccine to protect against polio. They also urge that any child who shows symptoms of paralysis be seen immediately by his or her primary care physician.

Waubant and Van Haren are actively working with the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to identify and track cases, with the goal of learning the cause of the disease. The CDPH is taking all reports of this illness very seriously, and Waubant and Van Haren hope their combined efforts will help lead to prevention and treatment strategies in the future.

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19 thoughts on “Rare Polio-Like Disease in California”

  1. this disease thou rare can still be affective to the human species and there for should not be taken lightly. Viruses and bacteria are always one mutation away from being lethal to other species. therefore all the research required to understand new illness should be done and done so intensively

  2. it is extremely devastatingly disease that has evolved with anonymously cause, symptoms and cure.

    This polio-like disease rises a lot of concerned to the well being of our children’s both in the community and the world at large as its effects can lead to immobility and other serious health problems.But doctors are not sure(about the exact cause) if it’s a virus.Only observation from the test samples showed the possibility of enterovirus-68.

    The have not yet identified the potential symptoms of the disease which gives a lot of concern as people may hesitate to to seen the primary care physician.

  3. The soon the better more investigations are made about the rare polio-like disease.For it to be rare should be a wake up call the scientist to came up with vaccine to eliminate it permenately before it affecting a lot of people.Such matters should be taken seriously and I think with new innovations that we have scientists have the power to stop this rare polio-like disease.

  4. It’s such a scary thought to think that in modern times when we’re still trying to beat the known diseases that have been around for a while, there are new diseases still developing. Medicine is advancing in leaps and bounds, with new discoveries being made every other day, however due to thinks like genetic and chromosomal mutations will we ever be advanced enough to prevent all future diseases? Never! Our bodies change way to fast to even comprehend whats happening, never mind predict it.
    Such a terrible thought.

  5. It is frightening to know that any disease can arise among people around the world which scientists haven’t seen before. These diseases can cause death in many if the scientists don’t look for the cause and find a cure for the disease. it is challenging for scientists to develop a treatment for it but this challenge in my opinion is not a match for the science and technology of today.

    Polio was a well-known disease in the past that caused the death of many people but I hope that this disease was diagnosed early enough to develop a cure for it before it becomes an epidemic. This intricate disease can be a new subject for studies for scientists all over the world.

  6. The mutation of diseases are apparent all over. There have been various strains of Measles in the past for example and with the help of vaccinations the dangers of such diseases have diminished. There is risk in even the smallest of diseases and each one of these cannot be taken with a pinch of salt. It is crucial that funding be put towards the research of such diseases.

  7. This is of course scary to hear for everyone. If we look at what polio has done in the past with the United States’ worst epidemic in 1952 killing 3145 people and leaving 21269 disabled, it becomes clear how dangerous this disease could become if we don’t research and find a cure fast enough. Its comforting for us to read here that researchers are working on this urgently while there is still only such a small number of reported cases and we can only hope that they are successful sooner rather than later.

  8. according to this, the cure and cause for the disease haven’t being found. This is a challenge and a motivation to all of us young and future scientists to go out there and find the cause so that we can terminate the disease and save lives of vulnerable infants.This disease is affecting young children this means it’s cutting the roots of the future generations.

  9. This article shows us that medically viruses are mutating and becoming more aggressive. At this stage we are confidant in our medicine and treatments for diseases but nature shows us ones again that she is still in control.As scientist we must constantly evaluate viruses and the symptoms that causes it.
    This disease that is so much like the feared polio disease is a very serious threat to our children’s health, worldwide.I agree that these children must be placed under quarantine just to eliminated the treat that this disease can cause an epidemic.
    World Health Organisation should be notified about this disease so that our best researchers can work on finding the cause and quickly.
    With the development of technology we can prevent that new diseases can destroy a population ,and to not repeat history.
    This is the new challenge of our time :the new,mutated diseases that return with more vicious consequences.

  10. THENDO 14065453

    For past years,children died in large number as a results of polio disease and the present vaccine seems not to be working an scientist are still busy with researches to find the best vaccine so the government should contribute by funding more money so that scientist continue with the research to save children as they are important and are the one’s that will rule the world in future.

  11. This is definitely a matter of great concern. In my opinion the research done on these few cases are not enough to assume that this is not an epidemic. Poliomyelitis are known for not causing symptoms (90% of the time) and have the potential to grow into an epidemic faster than most people would think. There could be a lot of affected individuals or ‘carriers of this disease’ of whom we have no statistics or knowledge. Research should be conducted in order to discover the cause of this as well as developing a vaccine. Awareness programs should be implemented as soon as possible. I’m curious as to how much is actually known of this disease? Is it really polio-related? If so, it could cause great havoc in this modern time.

  12. I think scientists should work together to eradicate this type of matter. It is deadly worrying how this Polio disease affect children,the ones we look up to. I think the government should try harder in funding scientists to research more about Polio, so that the causes and prevention can be known. If this keys are known then campaigns can be formed to distribute education to the people on how to protect themselves.So far for safety measures parents are encouraged to take children to receive vaccines.

  13. I think it is important to do research on this new Polio-like virus. Firstly, because the 21st century has seen a rise in antibiotic and vaccine resistant diseases and illness such as Ebola. Secondly, even though researchers are telling people not to be alarmed as there are no clusters and only a few case, I believe that the problem should be taken much more seriously. The mere fact that it this disease is resistant to the vaccine makes it a possible danger in the near future. Although there may only be 25 reported cases who knows how many other unreported or misdiagnosed cases there might be in the US, California and the rest of the world.Thirdly, research may give insight into how the disease works and possible how to prevent or treat it before it turns into a pandemic or epidemic.

  14. I am glad to see that this new polio-like disease is being taken seriously, even through here are only a few cases. Diseases causing paralysis are always very devastating to families especially if it is in children. I wonder if diseases like motor neuron disease, polio and this new polo-like disease are connect in some way.

  15. It is extremely worrisome that a polio-like disease has surfaced, especially since polio has been eradicated in the US. Considering we have now started to enter the “post- antibiotic” stage, where hospitals are fighting bacterial infections that are antibiotic resistant, it only enforces the idea that we should be extremely concerned.

    A serious illness, that is quick acting- affecting children, no less- should bother all physicians and parents as this illness causes permanent physical disabilities. Children are our future and should be protected at all costs.

    More time, effort and money should be put into research to find the origins of this illness as well as a cure, and if not, a vaccine.

  16. This article just showed me how small we are. We have the most advanced medical tegnology but still we come across a disease that is new and unknown to doctors. However seeing that all the cases is in the same area can seem like an environmental cause but maybe other case is just not being reported. But creation awareness can help studies to find a way to preventing and treat these paciants.

  17. This case can turn into a serious matter if taken lightly. The symptoms of this disease are very strange and scary. If it so happens that it turns into an epidemic it could prove to be a big problem because, the cause is unknown. I think this matter should be presented to the World Health Organisation so that top researchers should be assigned to this case.

    Another thing that really doesn’t sit well with me is the fact that it is not known if it is contagious or not. I think that children who have the virus should be quarantined. This is just for safety purposes. Their health and others can be in danger.

  18. Diseases such as polio have killed many people in the past and and that can stopped. The government should educate people about prevention and cure of such diseases in an early stage. More funding should be distributed to disadvantaged communities to reduce the number of deaths of such rare but spreading diseases such as polio

  19. I feel that no disease even how rare should be seen as unimportant or non threatening. For a new virus to be threatening it doesn’t even have to be new it can just be a genetic mutation of an old virus that uses our bodies as hosts. Scientists fear that a new disease can reak havoc on humankind in the next five years ( DailyMail , John Naish).

    Even though the polio vaccine doesn’t seem to work against this new disease the scientist still recommend it. There are moral implications to not taking even the smallest disease seriously. I feel scientists should receive more funding for fundamental research into rare diseases that can prove a threat in the future.

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