Four Amish Children Contract Polio Virus

By Vaishali Honawar — November 29, 2005 1 min read

Four children in an Amish community in central Minnesota were found to be carrying the polio virus, state and federal health officials revealed last month.

The virus was reported among three siblings, and a baby from another family who was admitted to the hospital with several health complications. The Amish typically shun vaccines and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that the children had not been vaccinated against polio.

Minnesota’s state epidemiologist, Dr. Harry Hull, rushed to reassure state residents that there was no threat to their children, and that the cases do not present a threat to most people because of wide vaccination against the polio virus.

The Minnesota cases are the first known cases of polio infection in the United States since 2000, when the use of live-virus vaccines for polio was discontinued, according to the CDC. All polio vaccinations in the United States are now done with an injected, killed-virus vaccine. The last cases of naturally occurring polio in this country were reported in 1979 in Amish communities in Iowa, Missouri, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

Ten people were left paralyzed by the disease that year, the CDC said.

Dr. Hull said that because members of the central Minnesota Amish community have links with Amish groups in other parts of the country, cases of infection may eventually be identified outside Minnesota.