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Illness Causing Paralysis In Colorado Children A Mystery So Far

AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) - An outbreak of a respiratory illness in children is taking a frightening turn in Colorado as some young victims are now experiencing paralysis.

Each of nine children at Children's Hospital in Aurora have some sort of respiratory illness but recently started showing symptoms of muscle weakness and some have loss of feeling in their arms or legs. When doctors ran a few tests, four of those children had concerning results, and now health officials have sent out a nationwide alert.

The Children's Hospital
The Children's Hospital in Aurora (credit: CBS)

"All nine of these children have some form of limb weakness, or potentially as severe as paralysis," said Dr. Larry Wolk, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Executive Director.

Of those nine children, four tested positive for enterovirus 68 -- the virus causing severe respiratory illness across the country. However, health officials cannot say for certain if the polio-like symptoms are caused by the virus.

"It was enough of a concern for us to contact the CDC and work with the CDC to see if we can figure out what's going on with these kids," Wolk said.

Colorado's health department is working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to determine if there are similar cases in other hospitals, and if the symptoms are reversible.

"Some of these children are as young as 1 year of age, so it's difficult to tell whether or not it's just a weakness or a paralysis," Wolk said. "We don't know yet from the doctor's at Children's Hospital whether or not this would be reversible or whether or not this is permanent."

The investigation is in the very beginning stages so few details are known right now. It's very possible the patients picked up a different germ that may cause paralysis.

If a parent is worried about their child who may have similar symptoms, they should call their family doctor.

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