Fact Check: Acute Flaccid Myelitis, Guillain-Barré Syndrome Are NOT Different Names For Polio

Fact Check

  • by: Ed Payne
Fact Check: Acute Flaccid Myelitis, Guillain-Barré Syndrome Are NOT Different Names For Polio Not The Same

Instead of being largely eradicated worldwide, has polio just been renamed acute flaccid myelitis and Guillain-Barré syndrome to hide its existence? No, that's not true: Polio is a viral infection caused by the poliovirus. Acute flaccid myelitis and Guillain-Barré syndrome are rare and distinct neurological conditions with different causes.

The claim appeared in a post and video (archived here) on Instagram by you.dont.kno.jac on January 23, 2024. The post's caption says:

Polio is the number one 'virus' that people fall back on to defend vaccines. But sadly, it's the biggest lie since Covid.

Acute flaccid myelitis, Guillain Barré, all renames for polio.

You can't eradicate something if you keep renaming it.

More to come. 💡

This is what the post looked like on Instagram at the time of writing:


(Source: Instagram screenshot taken on Wed Jan 24 15:14:27 2024 UTC)

The video

In the 75-second clip, the narrator makes her pitch that polio was not eradicated in India, it was just renamed. Here's what she said:

Welcome to 'Polio is a lie. Part two.' Most people believe that you would eradicate polio by vaccinating against it. Correct? Wrong.

In fact, a surefire way to eradicate polio is to rename it. So, as most of you may know or should know, our buddy boy Bill Gates did a huge push in India to vaccinate against polio. And of course, the results were what? Well, there was no more polio cases in India.

But suddenly, there were about 60,000 cases of non-polio paralysis. Which begs the question, how the hell does that happen? When the polio vaccine was introduced in India, there were zero cases per 100,000 people in India of non-polio paralysis. So, it was essentially nonexistent.

But then, when we've designated that India is polio-free, non-polio paralysis jumps up to 17 per 100,000 cases. Not to mention that this is number one in the world for non-polio paralysis. And do you want to add insult to injury? Non-polio paralysis is twice as fatal.

It's all really just like a sleight of hand but really on its face it's pseudoscience and the less you think about it, the more they make sense. The more you know. Hmmm.

National Library of Medicine

The narrator didn't name the source of her information. But Lead Stories found a research paper (archived here) with similar findings in the National Library of Medicine, which indexes more than a million titles. The types of non-polio paralysis reported in the document that have a hypothetical correlation with polio vaccination are acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) and Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS). There is no proof of direct causation, only that cases for both increased around the same time as vaccination campaigns.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

In a January 24, 2024, email response to the claims made in the video, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) told Lead Stories that AFM and GBS are not just different names than polio, they "are different diseases and syndromes." The CDC response went on to define each ailment:


Poliomyelitis caused by poliovirus, or polio, rarely occurs in the United States. Poliovirus spreads from person to person and can infect a person's spinal cord, causing paralysis (can't move parts of the body).

Acute flaccid myelitis

Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) is an uncommon but serious neurologic condition. It affects the nervous system, specifically the area of the spinal cord called gray matter, which causes the muscles and reflexes in the body to become weak. Most AFM cases (more than 90%) have been in young children.

Guillain-Barré syndrome

Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) is a rare disorder where the body's immune system damages nerves. The damage to the nerves causes muscle weakness and sometimes paralysis. While its cause is not fully understood, the syndrome often follows infection with a virus or bacteria. Each year in the United States, an estimated 3,000 to 6,000 people develop GBS. Most people fully recover from GBS, but some have permanent nerve damage. Anyone can develop GBS, but people older than 50 are at greatest risk.

Similar but different

The CDC told Lead Stories that AFM has "some similarities with polio," adding that "AFM looks a lot like polio" but is caused by other viruses. The public health agency continued (emphasis theirs):

In 2014, the term AFM was adopted to describe poliomyelitis without a known cause and not caused by poliovirus. AFM has some similarities with polio, such as the lesions in the grey matter of the spinal cord and flaccid limb weakness that can result in paralysis. Polio can be prevented by a vaccine.

Stool specimens that we receive from AFM patients are tested for poliovirus. If poliovirus is detected, it is considered a case of polio, not a case of AFM. CDC will continue to test all specimens from AFM patients to look for viruses, including poliovirus and non-polio enteroviruses.

In the same email, the CDC provided this response when asked if there was a relationship between polio vaccination and AFM:

We have found no evidence to suggest that vaccinations cause AFM. In 2018, AFM occurred in children who had received vaccines, and also in children who had received no vaccines. Among the AFM patients reviewed in 2018, about 85% had no recorded vaccinations in the 30 days prior to the beginning of their limb weakness. CDC continues to review the medical history of all reported patients, including past vaccinations, as part of our work.

Vaccination recommended

The CDC recommends polio vaccination for everyone, starting at 2 months old. In its email to Lead Stories, the agency said (emphasis theirs):

Polio was once one of the most feared diseases in the United States. Thanks to vaccination, wild poliovirus has been eliminated in this country. The best way to keep people safe from polio is to maintain high immunity (protection) against polio in the population through vaccination.

Read more

Additional Lead Stories fact checks of claims related to polio and vaccines can be found here.

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  Ed Payne

Ed Payne is a staff writer at Lead Stories. He is an Emmy Award-winning journalist as part of CNN’s coverage of 9/11. Ed worked at CNN for nearly 24 years with the CNN Radio Network and CNN Digital. Most recently, he was a Digital Senior Producer for Gray Television’s Digital Content Center, the company’s digital news hub for 100+ TV stations. Ed also worked as a writer and editor for WebMD. In addition to his journalistic endeavors, Ed is the author of two children’s book series: “The Daily Rounds of a Hound” and “Vail’s Tales.” 

Read more about or contact Ed Payne

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