FACT CHECK: Did The CDC Warn Of A Polio-Like Disease Outbreak In Children In The Next Four Months?

Elias Atienza | Fact Check Reporter

A video shared on Instagram claims the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a warning about a polio-like disease outbreak occurring in children in the next four months.


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Verdict: False

The warning referenced in the video was issued back in August 2020. A CDC spokesperson stated the agency has not released an official warning about acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) in 2021.

Fact Check:

The roughly three-minute video clip, posted last week in this particular instance, shows two men talking while text overlaying the footage reads, “CDC says expect a polio like outbreak comming (sic) in children in the next four months.” One of the men in the video says at one point, “They can foresee that there’s gonna be a flooding into hospitals around the country, that children are going to present with paralyzed arms, paralyzed legs, they’re not going to be able to walk. And the CDC is letting all the hospitals know…”

The speaker references acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), a rare but serious neurological condition that, according to the Mayo Clinic, causes “sudden weakness in the arms or legs, loss of muscle tone, and loss of reflexes.” AFM cases, most of which have occurred in young children, have been “increasing every other year in the US since 2014,” the CDC states on its website.

However, a review of the CDC website by Check Your Fact turned up no record of the agency issuing an advisory about AFM in 2021. Rather, the agency put out an official warning back in early August 2020, according to a press release titled “CDC Expects 2020 Outbreak of Life-Threatening Acute Flaccid Myelitis.” In the August 2020 press release, the agency said it “anticipates that 2020 will be another peak year for cases of acute flaccid myelitis.”

“Pediatricians and frontline providers in emergency departments and urgent care centers should be prepared to quickly recognize symptoms of AFM and immediately hospitalize patients,” read the August 2020 release from the CDC, in part. “Timing is critical at each step—prompt AFM recognition leads to optimal medical management and early specimen collection. When health care providers recognize symptoms as soon as possible, there is a better chance of detecting the cause of AFM, which might help predict the outcome.”

CDC spokesperson Kate Grusich confirmed to Check Your Fact in an email that the CDC has not issued an official warning about AFM in 2021. (RELATED: Will The FDA Not Authorize Or Approve Any COVID-19 Vaccine?)

“CDC has not issued an official warning such as a HAN or an Epi-X alert to clinicians in 2021 about acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), which is an uncommon but serious neurologic condition that causes weakness in the arms or legs,” Grusish said. “However, CDC’s AFM Team continues to work with state health departments and professional medical organizations to educate clinicians about AFM in case we do see an increase in cases this year.”

The CDC started tracking AFM in the U.S. starting in August 2014. It has seen “increases in AFM cases, mostly in young children, in 2014, 2016 and 2018,” the CDC website states.

Elias Atienza

Fact Check Reporter
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