Polio-Like Virus Outbreak Strikes California Children

A number of children in California have been stricken with a paralyzing virus. Could it be polio? INSIDE EDITION talks to one family whose toddler is suffering from the virus.

It was a heart-wrenching sight as Lucian Olivera crawled down the stairs, forced to drag his paralyzed legs behind him. If he wants to walk, he must strap on leg braces and use canes.

This two-and-a-half-year-old from Ventura County is the latest child in California to be diagnosed with a disturbing, polio-like illness.
Lucian's mom, Erin told INSIDE EDITION, "I am absolutely terrified."

Erin says her son's trouble started in 2012 with what seemed like a routine ear infection. He was pictured at a playground standing up on his own for what would be the last time. Two days later, his mother recalled, "When I went to change his diaper both of his legs flopped out like a frog."

And Lucian was in extreme pain.

"I lifted up his legs at the same time and he let out a yell that no mother should ever have to hear," said Erin.

It took more than a year before Lucian was diagnosed with a mysterious virus that is attacking children and causes polio-like symptoms. His MRI shows inflammation on his spine that paralyzed his left leg and partially paralyzed his right.
"There's the paralyzed leg. Can you can see how he moves it, he grabs it at the thigh where it's very spongy," explained Erin.

At least 25 other children in California have been diagnosed with this same polio-like syndrome. Among them, a cute four-year-old child from San Francisco, Sofia Jarvis. Her left arm flops limply at her side and she has breathing problems. Doctors don't know the cause or the cure.

It's all brings back disturbing memories of children stricken with polio, paralysed and confined to iron lung breathing devices until the development of the Salk vaccine in 1952. This new virus that mimics polio remains a mystery.

Dr. John Dingilian of Simi Valley Hospital said, "The thought is it is permanent, but we don't know all the things that are going to happen to each patient." 

Lucian's mom says her brave son is giving her the strength to keep going. She said, "It's very scary. They need more answers. They need to determine the cause."