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The claim: CDC warns of polio-like disease outbreak coming 2021
As if one pandemic weren't enough, a video circulating on social media warns of an imminent outbreak of a rare but serious disease.
"(The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) sent a notice to... doctors and all hospitals around the country, you can expect an outbreak between now and November this year of a polio-like outbreak among children average age of five years old," says Bryan Ardis, a Tennessee-based chiropractor, in a TikTok video shared to Facebook on Sept. 1, which has since been deleted.
Ardis asserted this polio-like disease will lead to an influx of children presenting to hospitals with paralyzed limbs. Ardis also questions how the CDC is able to anticipate the outbreak, which he considers impossible to do.
The TikTok video was viewed over 223,000 times from its Aug. 31 release until being removed. The original Sept. 1 Facebook video, which the TikTok video appears to be clipped from, garnered less than 3,000 views and only 169 interactions, according to CrowdTangle, a social media insights tool.
The CDC did issue a warning of an outbreak of this uncommon but serious neurologic condition, but it wasn't this year.
USA TODAY has reached out to the TikTok user and Rene for comment.
From the same family of viruses like polio
The condition Ardis referenced is called acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM. It's a polio-like disease characterized by sudden muscle weakness and paralysis and is believed to be primarily caused by the same family of viruses polio belongs to, called enteroviruses.
While both children and adults can be infected by the AFM-causing enterovirus – enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) – children come out of the infection worse since they don't have the same level of immunity from previous exposure as adults, according to the CDC.
Chances of getting infected, though, are extremely rare: about one in a million.
EV-D68 was first identified in California in 1962, and starting from 1987, a small number of cases were regularly reported to the CDC. But in 2014, an outbreak in Colorado prompted the agency to monitor the disease more closely, surveillance which continues to this day.
A warning issued last year
Because AFM tends to appear during the summer and fall, the CDC has warned of potential outbreaks every two years since 2014.
The latest warning was from August 2020. The agency has not issued a new warning since, CDC spokesperson Kate Grusich confirmed in an email to USA TODAY.
In a separate email to USA TODAY, Ardis acknowledged he obtained the information secondhand from an article published by Texas-based wire service Zenger News. This article itself relied on another article that had mistaken the outdated CDC warning as recent, FactCheck.org reported.
The CDC warnings have come every two years because AFM has emerged on a biennial pattern that is not yet fully understood. One theory is that immunity against EV-D68 lasts longer than a year, possibly preventing the virus from circulating during off-years, STAT News reported
And despite the CDC's warning, there weren't actually that many AFM cases in 2020 – 32 confirmed reports compared to 120 in 2014, 153 in 2016 and 238 in 2018. (A small number of AFM cases were reported in the intervening years since the enterovirus circulates year-round.)
Health experts say this decrease in cases during the pandemic was likely due to preventative measures like masks and social distancing, which prevented a respiratory virus like EV-D68 from spreading.
Studies into a possible cure are still ongoing. Few children afflicted with AFM go on to make a full recovery. Most will experience persistent weakness requiring rehabilitation, like physical therapy, which has been shown to help affected children regain function.
Our rating: False
Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that the CDC is warning of a polio-like disease outbreak coming in 2021. The CDC did issue a warning alerting health care professionals of a potential acute flaccid myelitis outbreak, but that was in August 2020. The agency has not released any new warning since.
Our fact-check sources:
Mayo Clinic, Sept. 22, 2020, Acute flaccid myelitis
CDC, Aug. 11, Enterovirus D68
UC Health, Dec. 19, 2018, Colorado a hotspot for rare, polio-like illness
CDC, Aug. 4, 2020, CDC Expects 2020 Outbreak of Life-Threatening Acute Flaccid Myelitis
Kate Grusich, Sept. 15, Email exchange with USA TODAY
Bryan Ardis, Sept. 15, Email exchange with USA TODAY
The Florida Star, Aug. 20, US Warns Of Polio-Like Illness Outbreak In Four Months
Zenger News, Aug. 20, US Warns Of Polio-Like Illness Outbreak In Four Months
FactCheck.org, Sept. 13, CDC: No Warning Issue for Acute Flaccid Myelitis in 2021
CDC, Sept. 3, AFM Cases and Outbreaks
AAP News, July 30, Will acute flaccid myelitis resurge in 2021? What pediatricians need to know
NIH, July 23, 2019, NIH awards contract for acute flaccid myelitis natural history study
Johns Hopkins Medicine, March 7, 2019, Intense Rehabilitation: The Only Treatment for Acute Flaccid Myelitis
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: CDC didn't warn of a polio-like disease outbreak for 2021