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It is rather interesting that polio is showing up again after it was supposedly eradicated! Pay special attention to the last two paragraphs of this article.





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.


None of the four have developed symptoms, and health officials say most polio cases do not result in paralysis. But they have urged members of the community to be immunized as soon as possible to reduce the chances the virus will spread. Only unvaccinated people are at risk.


"The doctors were here to talk to us," said Susie Borntreger, a young Amish mother who was hunting down snakes with a hoe in her yard Friday. "They talked with my husband. They told us we should think about the vaccine."


The Borntregers decided to vaccinate their two sons, aged 2 and 1. But that decision is not universal. Some Amish families here don't trust vaccinations. Borntreger was vague when asked to explain her family's thinking, saying the decision was made by her husband.


"Some people are very open, some people want to think about it, some people just say no," said Harry Hull, the state epidemiologist.


After consulting with Amish community leaders, state and county officials decided to approach families separately about vaccinations to avoid social pressures in the extremely close-knit community.


Unlike other Amish communities that cater to tourists, this small, conservative settlement in sparsely populated Todd County has little interaction with modern society. The closest town, Clarissa, has hitching posts outside stores on Main Street, but residents say their Amish neighbors keep to themselves.


"They come to town to shop," said Diane Hanson, a drug store clerk. "They're nice, friendly, but they never stick around long. I don't know any of them, and I don't know many people who do."


Many of the Amish settled here in the last five years or so, migrating from communities in Wisconsin in search of inexpensive farmland. They raise turkeys, cows and pigs and cultivate corn and wheat.


On Friday, a group of Amish men and boys were building an addition to one family's home. They declined requests to talk, expressing fears that a public airing of concerns over the polio cases could drive a wedge between neighbors.


Seventeen-year-old Alma Miller said her mother was spending the weekend at the Minneapolis hospital where the infant was staying so its parents could come home and care for their other children.


"The mothers are taking turns going down there," said Miller, who became upset when a camera was pointed toward her.


Miller said she herself had not been vaccinated and was waiting to see what her parents decide.


The last reported cases of paralytic polio in the United States were three in 1999, and three the year before that. There was a significant outbreak in 1979 in Amish communities in Iowa, Wisconsin, Missouri and Pennsylvania.


Many Amish people were vaccinated after that outbreak, said Jane Seward, chief of the viral-vaccine preventable disease unit at the Centers for Disease Control.


Until 2000, the United States used a live virus vaccine for polio — which caused about eight cases of paralytic polio a year. The United States and Canada now use an injected vaccine made from the killed virus, but some Amish still fear that a vaccination could inadvertently infect their children with polio.


State doctors don't know the source of the recent infection. Hull said it appears to be a mutated version of a live polio vaccine, which is still used in some countries.


Health officials consider polio eliminated in the Western Hemisphere. It persists in other parts of the world, including India, Nigeria, Yemen and Pakistan, according to the World Health Organization.


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