Doctors trying to figure out why more than 100 kids were stricken with mysterious paralysis

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Why have more than 100 kids, including three from our area, suffered paralysis? The cases were first reported during the huge outbreak of Enterovirus 68 in 2014, but doctors have found no link.

A local teenager named Billy Sticklen talked about the steps he’s taking towards recovery with FOX 4’s Meryl Lin McKean.

With a cane, Billy took steps at Children's Mercy Hospital, which is progress for a 13-year-old who was in a wheelchair for three months. Back in September, Billy had an upper respiratory infection, but then something happened one morning two weeks later.

“I told my parents my arms weren't moving,” Billy said.

“I thought that he had a pinched nerve or something,” Billy’s mom Dawn said.

Doctors initially thought the paralysis seen in Billy and some other kids could be caused by Enterovirus 68, an outbreak occurring in late summer and early fall.  But Doctor Mary Anne Jackson says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found no link.

“And now EVD 68 is gone and they're continuing to get reports,” Dr. Jackson said.

Reports of paralysis are up to 107 nationwide. Patients have inflammation showing up in the spinal cord and brain, similar to polio.

“The suspicion that I have is there are probably many viruses that are gonna turn out to be implicated,” Dr. Jackson said.

In fact, Dr. Jackson said a second look at samples taken from Children's Mercy patients in the fall revealed that many sick with upper respiratory symptoms didn't have Enterovirus 68 after all, but other viruses.

At his worst, Billy could only move his hands, and when he tried to give someone an angry stare…

“My neck muscles were so weak… I had to have someone push my head back up.

Billy spent two months in Children's Mercy.  Since then, he's been in rehab at the hospital and at the Rehabilitation Institute of Kansas City. He'll go home to Joplin in a few days. As for the mystery of what caused his paralysis?

“Personally, I think it's kinda cool. I mean, no parent wants their kid to be a statistic, but I think it's cool,” Billy said.

Billy says it will make a great story -- someday. Dr. Jackson says no one knows yet if paralysis was caused by something never seen before, or if it just hasn't been recognized. Much more research will be done.