After Almost 40 Years Polio Might be Back in the United States

After Almost 40 Years Polio Might be Back in the United States October 10, 2018
Photo Credit Google Images

Children around the country are coming down with a strange illness that has polio-like symptoms. Acute Flaccid Myelitis starts like the flu or cold, but then the symptoms become much more severe. According to the CDC, Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) is a rare condition. It affects a person’s nervous system, specifically the spinal cord. AFM or neurologic conditions like it have a variety of causes such as viruses, environmental toxins, and genetic disorders. The CDC says there are 38 confirmed cases across 16 states. News reports from around the country are sharing stories of young children ill with the disease. All of these stories are starting to draw questions on if polio is beginning to make a come back to the United States.

Currently, there are cases of AFM in Minnesota, Pennsylvania,  and Illinois. Six children in Minnesota are being treated for the disease. Today a report out of Pittsburgh said there are three children diagnosed with the disease. A report of Chicago noted there are two children diagnosed with AFM in a local hospital.

Colorado has reported 14 cases this year of AFM. The cases in Colorado were linked to an outbreak of enterovirus A71. Enterovirus A71 belongs to the same virus family as polio. The other two cases were related to enterovirus D68 which is also in the polio family.

According to reports on immunizations rates in Colorado, some parts of the state have vaccination rates of less than 50% of school-aged children having all the required vaccines. According to a report on PBS, for herd immunity to protect children from polio 80-85% of the population must be vaccinated against the disease.

While there hasn’t been a significant decline in vaccination rates in the U.S., the CDC reports on immunizations for 2016 showed small decreases in vaccination rates across all populations. Between 2015-2016 the overall reduction to those that received the polio vaccine fell from 93.7% to 91.9%.

Anti-vaccination propaganda has fueled communities distrust in the value of children getting their vaccinations. Movies like “Vaxxed” directed by the notorious anti-vaccine former doctor Andrew Wakefield, has fueled conspiracy theories about government cover-ups related to vaccines.

Earlier this year a study published by PLOS Medicine showed an increase in vaccine exemption requests by parents to schools for their children.

As vaccine rates decline and more parents opt for exemptions, diseases like polio can return to our country. The CDC reported that the last time there were cases of polio originating in the United States was 1979.

With the new onset of AFM spreading across the country, concern about polio coming back to the United States is a real concern. AFM causes neurological issues and can affect the spinal cord.

Patients start with a respiratory illness. Then patients can develop muscle weakness in their arms or legs. Some can develop issues with their overall muscle tone and reflexes. Other symptoms can include facial drooping, difficulty moving their eyes, difficulty swallowing, and slurred speech. In severe cases, AFM can lead to respiratory failure and death.

Because AFM can be linked to polio, the CDC recommends vaccinating your child for polio. The vaccination is effective and will prevent the disease.

West Nile is another disease that can cause AFM. West Nile is a mosquito-borne illness. Make sure to use mosquito repellant when outside and avoid being outside at dawn and dusk.

Also, hand washing is critical to help prevent the spread of the virus to infants that are not old enough to receive the vaccine.

The United States has not had polio in almost 40 years. However, the alarming trend of AFM cases since 2014 should concern all parents that polio could make a comeback.

Please get your children vaccinated.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • swbarnes2

    Because AFM is often related to polio, the CDC recommends vaccinating your child for polio.

    Who is saying that? It’s not in your links.

    AFM isn’t polio. Vaccination is of course important, but it has nothing to do with current cases of AFM.

  • Cozmo the Magician

    I really wish there was a god. Not buybull god. I’d like to see Thor throw some serious shade.. ie shade caused by a HUGE FUCKING THUNDERSTORM. right on top of Wakefield. I would like to see Wakefield struck by one lightning bolt for every person that gets sick or looses somebody close to them because of the bullshit he continues to promote. Oh, and that Jenny McCarthy twit. There should be a VERY special place in hell for her. She should be put into the body of an infant (but with her complete awareness) and suffer what this shit does to it for 80 years for each one that dies. Tack on an additional year for the pain the families have to suffer. And add on a few hundred just because I’m less vengeful than buybull god (he would make the punishment last FOREVER)

  • anxionnat

    Ditto. I remember polio. I’m 65 and often meet people who are polio survivors who are about my age. Most people today, if they are much younger than I am, don’t really know what polio means. Back in 1963-4-5 or thereabouts, President Lyndon Johnson led the campaign to vaccinate all Americans against polio. There was a youngish woman down our block who had contracted polio as an adult. Our block organized so that all of us would go down to the elementary school a block away and get vaccinated. Mary, the woman who’d had polio, went up and down our block, talking to all the women (and her 4 kids made presentations in their school classes) and urging all the moms to get themselves and their kids vaccinated. Her testimony and the sight of her oldest son (he was about a year older than me–about 12) pushing Mary in her wheelchair decided anyone who was still wavering. A couple who lived next door to us had lost their daughter to polio. The man, Roy, went and talked to all the dads on the street and urged them not to let any more kids die of what was now a preventable disease. I saw Roy and his wife when we walked down, as neighbors to get vaccinated. Roy’s wife, a different Mary, had tears flowing down her face when she and Roy solemnly thanked all the neighbors for getting vaccinated. A short while later, President Johnson got on radio and TV and announced that polio would no longer be a scourge on Americans. Church bells rang, factory whistles blew, and on our block all the neighbors brought food for a potluck celebration. I am sure that these scenes repeated all over the country. I was finally able to go to the city pool and learn to swim. (The virus can be passed from person to person in water polluted by feces.) That was something I’ll never forget.

  • Jim Jones

    > According to a report on PBS, for herd immunity to protect children from polio 80-85% of the population must be vaccinated against the disease.

    Is there wild polio in the US? I know New Zealand has considered dropping this one.

  • Jim Jones
  • Cozmo the Magician

    “(The virus can be passed from person to person in water polluted by feces.)” sadly it has found a new vector. It is being passed by shit on the internet too

  • Contractions of Fate

    Thanks for that link.

  • Catherine Spencer-Mills

    I remember getting a sugar cube with my siblings at the local National Guard Armory. I think I was 6 (about 1957?) – it was a day or two ago. Anyway, my dad had a cousin who had had polio and dad made my siblings and I chew and swallow. Then he made us open our mouths to be sure we had swallowed – like we were going to refuse to eat a sugar cube! One of the issues is that our public health measures have worked well enough that many people don’t understand the consequences of not vaccinating.

  • Patricia Partin

    Not too long ago, I read about an 11 month old boy who died when his two older unvaccinated siblings had had chicken pox and passed it to him. All unvaccinated children, babies and those unable to be vaccinated are at risk due to lies put out by social idiots!

  • Sharon Horton

    My mom had polio when she was 7 years old; she remembers her teacher carrying her home from school on the day the she was stricken. Her grandmother who raised her spent hours/days/weeks massaging and moving her legs to keep her from being paralyzed, and it worked. We all went to the school and got the sugar cube when the vax was released, and got all the rest of our vaccinations when they were available. But by that time, I had had rubella, measles, mumps, and chicken pox as had the rest of my sibs and classmates. My kids got all their vaccinations on schedule, and avoided a lot of childhood danger & misery.

  • Andrej Đeneš

    It’s funny how, in evil socialist countries, vaccinations were mandatory (and free, of course). Enjoy your freedom to die of polio, America.

  • Catherine Spencer-Mills

    I had chickenpox, rubeola, mumps, and rubella. My children were vaccinated on schedule – though the oldest was 12 before MMR was available. I figured chickenpox was unnecessary as by the time the vaccine was out, they had all had it. It’s too bad shingles vaccine is not considered necessary. The price just keeps going up and both my husband and his mother had outbreaks. Okay, it isn’t often life threatening or contagious, but it is certainly painful.

  • Wile F. Coyote

    I would not be surprised if a whole bunch of committed anti-vaxxers who think measles and mumps are no big deal will abandon their nutjob anti-vaxx attitude when it comes to placing their children at high risk for paralyzing polio. It is a lot easier to comprehend how serious a disease may be when confronted with old photo’s of people with paralyzed limbs, or lying confined in iron lungs.

  • Linda Tock

    It’s important to emphasize that while A71 and D68 are in the same family of viruses as poliovirus, they themselves are NOT POLIO.

    So no, polio is not currently making a resurgence in the US.

  • Jim Jones

    Have the found the ‘bug’? Analyzed the structure?

  • Me

    But polio actually has a vaccine, so might as well get it.

  • Me

    And curiously these outbreaks are occurring in a state with lower vaccination rates. Which might mean that the polio vaccine can help prevent A71 and D68.

  • Bryant Belknap

    My mom had it when she was twelve. It left her with all sorts of problems; a withered leg, bad heart valves, a fouled up Otic nerve. She was never steady on that leg, and I remember being so frustrated as a little boy when we’d walk on “rough” terrain that she just couldn’t handle. But actually she handled it all with such good grace. She was 42 when I was the same age as she when that fucking disease knocked her over. And despite her best efforts to make me a decent human, I don’t think I could have handled it with the same stoicism and aplomb that she did. She was made of stronger stuff than I.

    The bad heart valves were what eventually killed her after a life well spent, despite the obstacles she faced from her months in the hospital as a little girl, to a grand old broad who did her best to make the people around her happy.

    So. I offer a hearty, “fuck off,” to anti vaxxers everywhere, and my heartfelt appreciation to those who know just what an awful, rotten disease polio was. If it makes a comeback, I’m going to give Jenny McCarthy a swift kick in the fork. I think my dear old mum would look the other way, and maybe have a slight little grin on her face if I did.

  • There is nothing on that link suggesting that the polio vaccine provides protection against enterovirus or West Nile. Though, of course, the CDC would like you to get the polio vaccine to protect against polio.