Experts Scramble To Determine Cause Of Partial Paralysis

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – As many as 25 cases of a mystery illness that mimics polio have been detected in children in California.

Health officials are looking into the cause of the illnesses and to see if it’s contagious.

As CBS 2’s Dick Brennan, reported, Sofia Jarvis was a happy-go-lucky 4-year-old, but suddenly her mother saw that something was wrong.

“She started wheezing…so I called our pediatrician,” Jessica Jarvis said. “We were given Albuterol and on the way home, she started vomiting.”

At a follow-up doctor’s visit a few days later, Jarvis said her daughter’s condition got much worse.

“Sofia went to the treasure box to grab her toy and I saw her left hand, mid-grasp, stop working,” Jarvis said.

Sofia’s arm was paralyzed. Five children in California have developed symptoms similar to polio and 20 more are being investigated.

“It can affect one or more limbs and the prognosis that we’ve seen so far is not good. Most of the children we’ve seen have not recovered use of their arm or leg,” Dr. Keith Van Haren of the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital said.

Some children have cold-like symptoms. Doctors aren’t sure if the illness is a virus or something else.

“Even though it’s acting like polio where the paralysis develops suddenly over 48 hours, it’s definitely not polio,” CBS News Medical Contributor Dr. Holly Phillips said.

Some experts, however, note that parents should not fear the illness will spread.

“This is a very rare disease and at this stage, the concern that people should be worried about it spreading like polio seems very, very unlikely,” Dr. Stuart Sealfon at Mount Sinai Hospital said.

Sofia’s family said they’re grateful to doctors but are now coping with new challenges.

“Getting dressed and tying her shoes, those things that she would normally be learning right now or be doing that we are gonna have to find a new way of doing,” Jarvis said.

The average age of the victims is 12 years old. Doctors said they don’t think the illness spreads quickly.

Experts say they are getting the word out about this issue not to scare the public, but to inform doctors and parents so they can be aware of what to look for.

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