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CLARISSA, Minn. - Residents of an isolated Amish community appear divided on what to do after doctors diagnosed four cases of the polio virus in their children. Some have decided on vaccinations to ward off future polio cases, while others prefer leaving the matter in God's hands.
About two dozen Amish households dot the hillsides in central Minnesota's rolling farm country. On Thursday, state health officials announced the four polio infections — the first known cases in the United States in five years.
The Amish community — it has no official name — has seen a flurry of visitors from the state Health Department after three siblings under 16 were diagnosed. Two weeks earlier, an infant from the community had been diagnosed with polio, and state doctors expect more cases to turn up.
Originally posted by Relentless
Four cases in two dozen homes? That sounds like a lot!
So if I understand correctly, there is no moral objection to the vaccines, they just don't trust them?
The American Academy of Pediatrics, which published new recommendations in January, is calling for a sequence of two injections followed by two doses of either vaccine. But the group expects to suggest an all-out switch to injected vaccine by 2001.
The injected vaccine is a strengthened version of the original Salk vaccine, hailed as a miracle of science when it was introduced in 1954 -- two years after the nation's worst polio epidemic. Made from killed virus, the vaccine is incapable of causing infection if made correctly.
In contrast, the oral vaccine contains a live, weakened virus that boosts immunity in virtually everyone but, in an unlucky few, triggers the disease.
Since the late 1970s, fewer than 12 cases of paralytic polio have occurred each year in the United States, a testament to the oral vaccine's ability to control a disease that crippled a president and put thousands of victims in leg braces and iron lungs. But in a cruel twist, the few cases that still occur are caused by the vaccine itself.
People who took the oral vaccine harbored a protective virus that could be passed to others through the environment. As a result, someone who never took the vaccine could become immunized through contact with somebody who did. But there would be victims.
ST. PAUL, Minn. - State health officials on Wednesday reported that a fifth Amish child in central Minnesota has contracted the polio virus.
The child's family is unrelated to two other families with children who have also tested positive for the virus, said Doug Schultz, a Minnesota Health Department spokesman. The families are all part of the an Amish community near Clarissa.
State epidemiologist Harry Hull last week said he expects more cases of polio infection to turn up as community members are tested. Most were never vaccinated.
Health unit on polio alert
Area health unit staff are on alert for polio after learning Middlesex County residents visited an area in Minnesota hit with an outbreak of the dreaded disease that hasn't been found in Canada for 11 years.
Canadian authorities were alerted because Ontario is home to several Amish communities. Travel back and forth from Amish communities in the U.S. is common.
In Middlesex, Pollett said the health unit is providing the Amish with educational materials and offering vaccines to people who want them. About 17 people have been vaccinated, he said.
Health staff in Elgin County have found no links between Amish residents there and the Minnesota cases, said Laura McLachlin, director of health protection for the Elgin- St. Thomas Health Unit. McLachlin said there are about 200 members of the Amish community in Elgin and unit staff have been contacting them, explaining the situation. "We actually have a pretty high vaccination rate with this population, so that is a good thing," she said.
Amish Community Dealing With Polio Virus
On the simple farms where about 600 Amish live, vaccinations are not standard issue, and now five children are infected with the polio virus. An Amish elder said he has decided to have his children vaccinated. He said he is doing what he can and will leave the rest in God's hands.
Minnesota's top doctors have been urging Amish around the state to get their children immunized. "During the last polio outbreak in 1979, cases only occurred in the Amish community," said Dr. Harry Hull, the Minnesota State Epidemiologist. "They did not spread to the general community, which again emphasizes the minimal risk."
The group of Amish moved to the area four years ago.