As If Ebola Weren’t Bad Enough Right Now

Dan Hurley reports on a confusing new childhood illness:

More than 100 cases of a polio-like syndrome causing full or partial paralysis of the arms or legs have been seen in children across the United States in recent months, according to doctors attending the annual meeting of the Child Neurology Society. Symptoms have ranged from mild weakness in a single arm to complete paralysis of arms, legs, and even the muscles controlling the lungs, leading in some cases to a need for surgery to insert a breathing tube, doctors said.

The outbreak, which appears to be larger and more widespread than what has largely been previously reported by medical and news organizations, has neurologists and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention scrambling to find out what is causing these cases and how best to treat it. “We don’t know how to treat it, and we don’t know how to prevent it,” said Keith Van Haren, a child neurologist at Stanford University School of Medicine. “It actually looks just like polio, but that term really freaks out the public-health people.” Instead, neurologists are now calling it acute flaccid myelitis: acute because it occurs suddenly, and flaccid because the affected limb or limbs become markedly weak.