A strain of enterovirus could be to blame for a mysterious paralysis taking over a San Diego boy’s arm.
Will Baker, 8, was hospitalized late last month for what doctors initially thought was pneumonia, though one big symptom suggested it was not just a respiratory illness.
He developed pain in the back of his neck, head and arm, his father Christopher told NBC 7 in an exclusive interview.
When a regimen of antibiotics did nothing, Will’s parent took him back to the emergency room as paralysis set in to his right arm.
“After some time, he lost all the ability to move his arm. He's still in the hospital at that time, and they suspected it was a polio-like virus,” said Christopher.
Tests revealed Will had contracted enterovirus, but doctors say the disease left his body before they could confirm if it was the strain D68, which has sickened children across 22 states.
Christopher said San Diego County health officials are investigating whether enterovirus caused the polio-like symptoms that have left Will unable to move more than his right hand.
Will’s case is similar to ten others reported in Colorado, where patients have either weakness or paralysis in arms or legs. Four of them have tested positive for EV-68.
While doctors prescribed physical therapy as a possible cure, the recovery rate for Will’s paralysis is very low, according to Christopher.
"The long term prognosis is not great. It's not encouraging. But at the same time, I am hopeful, and we're going to do all we can as far as physical therapy and whatever else we can think of,” he said. The family has opened a support fund to raise money for Will's treatment.
Will’s mother told NBC 7 she hopes other cases will be diagnosed much quicker. She thinks doctors should run tests right away when a child complains of stiffness in the neck or headaches.
Will, a baseball and piano player, is remaining positive and has begun homeschooling while he recovers.
"And he's determined to use his left hand, his left arm, writing with his hand, throwing with his left hand,” Christopher said.
The father said he wants other parents to be aware of head and neck pain in their own children, as do public health officials. They are asking emergency rooms and pediatricians across the U.S. to watch for paralysis or weakness in patients and report it to local health departments.
In the past, EV-71 was the strain known to cause paralysis, not EV-68. Doctors explained to Christopher that like polio, many people are infected with enterovirus without ever developing symptoms. Only random cases could progress into severe respiratory problems or paralysis.
Three children from San Diego County and one visiting from Ventura tested positive for EV-68, the first cases reported in California this year.