Child paralysis illness in CA has not spread to AZ - Tucson News Now

Child paralysis illness in CA has not spread to AZ

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

The rare illness that is leaving children in California paralyzed has not made its way to Arizona or any other state, according to Arizona and federal authorities. 

California health officials said it's definitely not polio, but could be a virus that usually simply causes a cold.

There are five children who have confirmed cases of the condition in California. As many as 20 children may be affected.

Doctors are concerned the paralysis may be permanent.

In the confirmed cases, the children have some paralysis in their arms or legs.

The culprit may be a virus called enterovirus-68.

So far, the paralysis has been seen only in children.

We asked the Arizona Department of Health Services why that is.

"That's because a lot of times with these viruses, once you've been infected once to that particular strain of a virus, you have immunities and your cells can fight it off more easily. And so we'll more commonly see infections like this in kids because they haven't been exposed yet," says Jessica Rigler, Arizona Department of Health Services Chief of the Bureau of Epidemiology and Disease Control.

Rigler says small clusters of serious illnesses do happen periodically and usually do not spread beyond small areas.

Arizona and federal experts says it's unlikely the illness will extend beyond the current cluster of cases in California.

Paralysis from the enterorvirus is extremely rare.

"In many cases, people are infected with enteroviruses and don't have any symptoms at all. In cases where they do have symptoms, it's mostly cold-like symptoms, as I explained before. So to get paralysis or any other kind of complication like this is incredibly rare and almost unheard of," Rigler says.

Rigler says the Arizona Department of Health Services will be monitoring the situation.

She says the department is considering enhanced surveillance, meaning communicating more closely with doctors in Arizona.

Rigler reminds us that the best way to keep viruses from getting us sick is to frequently wash our hands and avoid sick people as much as we can.

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