An adult in New York has polio, the first case in the US in nearly a decade


A person from Rockland County, New York, was diagnosed with polio, the first case identified in the United States in nearly a decade.

County Health Commissioner Dr. Patricia Schnabel-Robert said Thursday that the unvaccinated young adult began experiencing weakness and paralysis about a month ago.

The case comes nearly a month after the UK’s Health Security Agency warned that polio virus had been detected in its monitoring of sanitation samples in London, suggesting there had been some spread among closely related individuals in north and east London, although no cases had been identified. there. .

Polio is an infection caused by the polio virus. About 1 in 4 people with it develop flu-like symptoms including sore throat, fever, fatigue, nausea, headache, and stomach aches. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, up to 1 in 200 will develop more serious symptoms that include tingling and numbness in the legs, inflammation of the brain or spinal cord, and paralysis.

There is no cure for polio. Treatment for symptoms may include medications to relax the muscles, heat, and physical therapy to stimulate the muscles. However, any paralysis caused by polio is permanent.

“This patient had weakness and paralysis,” Schnabel Robert said.

This is the first case of polio diagnosed in the United States since 2013, according to the New York Department of Health.

State and county health officials are advising health care providers to remain vigilant for additional cases, and they are advising county residents to get polio vaccinated.

“The risk to an unvaccinated community member from this event is still being determined,” said Robert Schnabel. “We strongly advise anyone who is not vaccinated to get vaccinated.”

The polio vaccine is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s standard vaccination schedule, and is required for school attendance. Persons who have been vaccinated are not expected to be at risk.

The New York case was identified as retropoliovirus type 2, indicating that it was derived from a person who received the oral polio vaccine, which contains a live but weakened form of the polio virus.

Officials say this indicates that the virus originated outside the United States, where the oral vaccine is still given, but they are investigating the origins of this particular case.

Health officials said Thursday that the person had not traveled outside the United States before or after being diagnosed.

Usually, people who contract polio can pass it on to others for about two weeks. Officials said the individual is not expected to be contagious at this time because they are past that time period and have normal immune function. But others may have been exposed before the condition was diagnosed.

The oral polio vaccine is no longer licensed for use in this country. In the United States, only the inactivated polio vaccine has been given since 2000.

Not everyone can catch polio from the vaccine itself, but in recent years, cases of polio associated with oral vaccine release have emerged in communities with low vaccination rates. Health officials believe that the strain of virus that the individual infected originated in this way.

When this weakened strain of the virus spreads among unvaccinated populations – usually in areas with poor sanitary conditions – the virus can acquire mutations and revert to the paralyzing form. These vaccine-derived viruses are different from wild polioviruses, which are now circulating only in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Rockland County is home to an ultra-Orthodox community that has historically had very low vaccination rates. In 2018 and 2019, Rockland County was the epicenter of a measles outbreak that lasted nearly a year and infected 312 people. County health officials reported at the time that only 8% of people had been vaccinated against measles, mumps and rubella before the outbreak began.

“Based on what we know about this condition and polio in general, the Department of Health strongly recommends that non-immunized individuals be vaccinated or boosted by the FDA-approved IPV vaccine as soon as possible,” State Health Commissioner Mary T. Bassett said. In a statement Thursday. “The polio vaccine is safe and effective, protects against this potentially debilitating disease, and has been part of the backbone of the routine immunizations required for children recommended by health officials and public health agencies nationwide.”

Polio cases were common in the United States and around the world. During one of the most severe outbreaks in 1952, the virus infected 58,000 people in the United States, crippled more than 21,000 and killed more than 3,100. However, vaccination campaigns have dramatically reduced cases. The last naturally occurring case of polio in the United States was in 1979.

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