Small Number Of Children In California Get Strange, New Polio-Like Illness

CALIFORNIA (CBSMiami) — In California, a rare illness is causing some children to become paralyzed and doctors still don’t know exactly what it is.

Sofia Jarvis seems like a normal, healthy four year old girl, until you notice her left arm, which she has nicknamed lefty.

“Lefty is my favorite arm,” said Sofia.

Sofia’s left arm is paralyzed.

Researchers say she’s one of as many as 25 children in California who have developed a mysterious polio-like illness that paralyzes limbs since 2012.

“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,” explained Dr. Keith Van Haren.

Some of the children first had symptoms of a cold. But health experts still don’t know if the illness is caused by 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. In fact, all of the children who have been confirmed to have the illness were vaccinated against it and tested negative for it,” said CBS News Medical Contributor Dr. Holly Phillips.

Sofia was hospitalized for what doctors thought was asthma two years ago but then she got sicker.

“We had two boys that are very healthy and Sofia was healthy until that point. We did not realize what we were in store for,” said Sofia’s mother Jessica Tomei.

Doctors say the illness is serious, but very rare.

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