Mysterious Polio-Like Illness Affecting Kids in California

Updated 3/21/14

According to a report by USA Today, doctors have identified about 25 California children suffering from a polio-like virus capable of paralyzing limbs. Neurologists are asking for the public’s help to see if there are any other outbreaks inside or outside of California.  The 25 outbreaks have primarily affected children in the Northern California areas of Palo Alto, San Francisco and neighboring areas.

According to recent recent reports on ABC, the diagnosis has been reported in Moorpark.  The polio-like syndrome is not contagious and is in no way at an epidemic level.  Due to multiple reports it is also being dubbed the, “California polio-like syndrome”.

There has been 6 outbreaks within the past 18 months.  In each case, the child suffered paralysis of one or more limbs.

According to the report, the average age of the children affected is 12 years old.  Doctors also do not know what is causing the outbreak.

Boy And Girl Playing And Relaxing

According to USA Today:

A mysterious polio-like syndrome has affected as many as 25 California children, leaving them with paralyzed limbs and little hope of recovery.

“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, Calif.

The first known case appeared in 2012. Sofia Jarvis in Berkeley began to experience wheezing and difficulty breathing. The 2-year-old spent days in the intensive care unit at Children’s Hospital Oakland. Doctors thought she had asthma.

On a follow-up visit, her mother Jessica Tomei, 37, realized something else was wrong.

“As we were leaving the doctor’s office, I noticed that she went to grab something with her left arm and she stopped, midway,” Tomei said.

Eventually Sofia was brought to Van Haren’s clinic with “a unique set of symptoms.” She was treated with steroids and intravenous immunoglobulin therapy, used to reduce the severity of infections by giving the body antibodies to protect against bacteria and viruses. “None of it helped,” said Van Haren, a neurology professor at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

“He told us right away that the prognosis was really poor and that she’s not going to get better,” Tomei said.

The diagnosis proved correct. Today, at age 4, Sofia’s left arm is paralyzed and she has some weakness in her left leg as well as slight breathing issues.

Still, parents shouldn’t panic. “This is really very rare,” Van Haren said. “But we are asking any families who notice a sudden onset of weakness to see their doctors immediately. Their doctors should contact the California Department of Public Health.”

Researchers want doctors and parents to be on the lookout for cold-like symptoms and with a sudden onset of weakness in the limbs.  Parents if you notice these symptoms contact your doctor immediately!


For additional information about non-polio enteroviruses visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Question:  Are you aware of the outbreak? Does it concern you?

Eva Smith

Founder & Editor at Inland Moms
Eva Smith is wife to a former Marine. They have a blended family of 3 children and 1 grand child. A Cloud Computing Engineer by trade, she splits her time between Engineering & Social Entrepreneurship. She enjoys dancing, traveling & wearable tech gadgets, especially her Google Glass.She blogs at

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