Children suffer from “polio-like illness”


BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)- “Polio,” it’s a word that dredges up scary reminders of a devastating outbreak from decades ago. Now, a similar condition is leaving children paralyzed. It’s still unclear how children got the condition.

News 4’s Dr. Peter Ostrow says this isn’t something that should make us think of the polio epidemic in the 1940s and 1950s. He says this doesn’t look like an epidemic, and people shouldn’t be scared.

Researchers say Sophia Jarvis is one of as many as 25 children in California who have developed a mysterious “polio-like” illness that paralyzes limbs.

Erie County says they have not had any reports of this illness. Dr. Ostrow says polio typically attacked cells in the spinal cord, and when some other infection attacks the same cells, we see the same effect. That’s why they are calling it a polio-like illness, but not polio.

Polio crippled about 35,000 Americans each year in the 1940s and 1950s, according to the Centers for Disease Control. It was caused by an infectious virus transmitted from one person to another. A vaccine eradicated polio in the United States by 1979.

In these latest mysterious cases, some of the children had symptoms of a cold and that turned into paralysis. Experts say that’s extremely rare.

About 10-15 million people in the United State develop non-polio enteroviruses each year, but most do not get sick or just have a mild respiratory infection.

Doctors say five of the children who have suffered from paralyzed limbs had been vaccinated against the polio virus. Ostrow says now he expects to hear about more similar cases in the United States. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review. Note: Comments containing links are not allowed.

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