The Politically Incorrect Mom


Friday, October 14, 2005

Polio Outbreak Not A Risk?

Here’s a case of a doctor being S.O.S.

Four cases of Polio have been identified in Minnesota. The sick children are Amish. The article states,

“Dr. Harry Hull, the state epidemiologist, said the cases do not pose a threat to the general public because most people have been vaccinated against polio and are unlikely to have contact with Amish people”. (emphasis mine)

Ok, my children have been vaccinated for Polio and so have I – HOWEVER, does he think Amish people live in caves?? I live in south-central Pennsylvania – nicknamed, “Amish Country”. Let me tell you what MY contact is with Amish people.

First, I work in healthcare and we serve Amish people. In fact, not a day goes by that we do not serve several Amish people in one of our many locations. There are, of course, other people visiting our offices while Amish people are present. My staff comes in contact with bodily fluids of these people. Some of my staff members are pregnant and some have infant children at home. Of course we take the regular precautions, i.e. gloves, masks, etc., but human error is always a concern - no matter where you visit.

Second, I buy fresh fruits and vegetables. The majority of the fresh fruits and vegetables in south-central Pennsylvania come from Amish farms. Amish people pick, sort and package the vegetables.

I purchase my bread in a bakery. The bakery is owned by and employs strictly Amish people.

There are a large number of restaurants owned and operated by Amish people in this area – mostly patronized by tourists.

Typhoid Mary spread her illness to the people she cooked meals for. These people are handling and preparing food all the time. Farming, handcrafts and the food industry is just about all the Amish in this area do to make their living. I have no reason to think the Amish in Minnesota are any different.

Additionally, (and you can yell at me all you want for this but I am exposed to them every day!) Amish people are not generally the cleanest people in the world. They do not bathe frequently or launder their clothing on what most of us would consider a regular basis. Healthy hygiene habits are not a priority. This is an issue, particularly if there is a crippling disease like Polio in question. A large number of the Amish people we serve have to be helped to clear up major hygiene related issues before we can even begin treatment.

They aren’t exactly McDonalds, but there stands an enormous opportunity for this disease to be spread by the Amish. Infants who have not been vaccinated yet, and for the people (fewer now than years ago…but still…) who choose not to vaccinate their children are at risk.

We’re having a meltdown about the bird flu potential and there are cases of Polio that we aren’t worried about because, hey…it’s JUST the Amish. Those people are getting it from somewhere and they’re giving it to each other (three of the children were related to each other – the fourth was from a different family). I’m not suggesting that people should be panicked about it, but I definitely think a DOCTOR should know better than to suggest that the Amish don’t pose a risk of spreading this disease.


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