The Minnesota Department of Health has confirmed five cases of polio in Amish children in Minnesota. All five cases have been from the same Amish community near Clarissa, Minnesota. The last significant outbreak of polio was in 1979 and occurred primarily in Amish communities in Pennsylvania.
Polio, or Poliomyelitis, is a highly contagious disease caused by a virus. Polio mainly infects children, especially those under the age of three. At the peak of the polio epidemic in 1952, nearly 60,000 cases, resulting in 3,000 deaths, were reported in the United States. There are four forms of polio.
The remaining 5% of polio cases result in physical symptoms.
None of the five reported victims are showing symptoms of paralytic polio.
Polio was virtually eliminated from the Western hemisphere in the late 20th century after the polio vaccine became widely available, but the disease continues to cause illness in other parts of the world.
Most everyone nowadays is vaccinated for Polio. But vaccinations are not common in the Amish community. Still, Amish are not the only group that do not get vaccinations: in Minnesota, about 2% of parents opt out of vaccination programs for school age children. Doctors across the country are using this outbreak to encourage members of the Amish community, and those outside of the Amish community who have opted out of the vaccination programs, to reconsider their decisions and get vaccinated.