Senator Boxer Urges CDC to Investigate Rare Polio-Like Disease Afflicting California Children

Washington, DC - U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) today sent a letter urging Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Thomas Frieden to begin an investigation into a rare polio-like disease – recently reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, the Associated Press and others – that has afflicted at least 20 children in California children over the last year and a half. 

“I was alarmed to learn that at least 20 children in California over the last 18 months have suffered from a rare polio-like disease that causes paralysis to one or more arms or legs,” Senator Boxer wrote. “We need answers to what is causing this devastating disease in children.”  

Senator Boxer specifically requested that the CDC undertake a geographic analysis of where the cases are occurring in California, and asked the agency to answer the following questions:  

     • What is the CDC doing to identify the cause of this disease?
     • Could a virus, such as an enterovirus, be a cause of the disease?
     • Could environmental factors and exposures be involved?
     • Have you instituted national reporting of acute paralytic diseases? If not, why not?  

Senator Boxer added, “These questions must be answered because it is deeply disturbing to read reports of otherwise healthy children experiencing sudden paralysis.”  

The full text of the letter follows:  

February 27, 2014  

Thomas Frieden, MD, MPH 
Director U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
1600 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30333  

Dear Director Frieden:  

I was alarmed to learn that at least 20 children in California over the last 18 months have suffered from a rare polio-like disease that causes paralysis to one or more arms or legs. 

I have enclosed articles by the San Francisco Chronicle and the Associated Press on this topic. We need answers to what is causing this devastating disease in children. 

I request that the CDC undertake a geographic analysis of where these cases are occurring in California. 

I am also asking the CDC to answer the following questions:  

     • What is the CDC doing to identify the cause of this disease?
     • Could a virus, such as an enterovirus, be a cause of the disease?
     • Could environmental factors and exposures be involved?
     • Have you instituted national reporting of acute paralytic diseases? If not, why not?  

These questions must be answered because it is deeply disturbing to read reports of otherwise healthy children experiencing sudden paralysis.  

The CDC has a robust history of investigating and ultimately solving the mysteries of infectious disease. Families in California and across the nation benefit from all of the work that you do. Thank you for your commitment to health, and I ask you to respond in an urgent fashion so that our country can learn what the CDC is doing to find answers to this troubling disease that is affecting California’s children.  

Sincerely,  

Barbara Boxer
United States Senator  

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