STANFORD (KPIX 5) – Doctors continue to investigate a mysterious polio-like illness that has paralyzed at least five California children since August 2012. Meanwhile, the family of a young Berkeley girl who was diagnosed with the disease spoke out about her condition.

The family of 4-year-old Sofia Jarvis spoke to reporters at a briefing at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford University Monday evening.

According to family, Sofia’s left arm is paralyzed. Her left leg is weakening and she is suffering from slight breathing issues.

Two years ago, doctors initially thought Sofia was suffering from asthma, until her left arm stopped moving.

“Sofia went to the treasure box to grab her toy after seeing the doctor and I saw her left hand mid-grasp stop,” said Jessica Tomei, Sofia’s mother.

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

Her parents decided to come forward to raise awareness of the disease.

“Sofia is still a healthy young girl who is thriving,” Tomei said. “She goes to preschool, she does dance. We were very lucky that it only impacted her left arm. But it has taken us a long time to be okay with that.”

According to Dr. Emanuelle Waubant of UCSF, which co-authored the study with Stanford researchers, two of the five children tested positive for enterovirus-69, a rare virus previously associated with polio-like symptoms.


Doctors are also investigating as many as 25 cases that have been reported over the past 18 months. The cases all involve children between the ages of two and 16. All have received the polio vaccine.

In some cases, the children first showed symptoms of a common cold. “We’re not exactly clear what is the agent, we suspect it’s a virus explaining these cases,” Waubant said.

“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,” said Dr. Keith Van Haren, pediatric neurologist at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital.

According to doctors, the symptoms of the disease come on quickly. If parents suspect their child is affected and shows symptoms of paralysis, they are urged to seek immediate medical attention.

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