First Polio Case in a Decade Found in New York

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Polio has been found in a person from Rockland County, New York. This is the first case of polio found in the United States in almost ten years.

Dr. Patricia Schnabel Ruppert, the county's health commissioner, said Thursday that the young adult who hadn't been vaccinated started feeling weak and paralyzed about a month ago.

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An illustration from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention depicts a polio virus particle.Sarah Poser and Meredith Boyter Newlove/CDC

Nearly a month ago, the UK Health Security Agency warned that it had found poliovirus in sewage samples from London. This showed that the virus had spread between people who were closely connected in North and East London, but no cases had been found there.

The poliovirus is what makes people sick with polio.

About 1 in 4 people who are infected have flu-like symptoms, such as a sore throat, fever, headache, nausea, and stomach pain.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that as many as 1 in 200 people will have more serious symptoms, such as tingling and numbness in the legs, an infection of the brain or spinal cord, or paralysis.

Polio has no treatment.

Medication to relax muscles and heat or physical therapy to stimulate muscles may be used to treat the symptoms.

Polio, on the other hand, causes paralysis that never goes away.

Schnabel Ruppert said, "This person did come in with weakness and paralysis."

The New York Department of Health says that this is the first case of polio in the United States since 2013.

Health officials from the state and county are telling health care providers to keep an eye out for more cases and are telling county residents to get vaccinated against polio.

Ruppert Schnabel said, "It's still not clear what kind of risk this event poses to people who haven't had their shots."

"We strongly suggest that anyone who hasn't been vaccinated get one."

Polio vaccine is part of the standard immunization schedule set by the CDC and is needed to go to school.

People who have been vaccinated should not be at risk.

The New York case was found to be a revertant polio Sabin type 2 virus. This means that it came from someone who got the oral polio vaccine, which contains a weakened version of the polio virus that is still alive.

Officials say this suggests that the virus came from somewhere other than the US, where the oral vaccine is still given. They are still looking into where this particular case came from, though.

Health officials said Thursday that the person had never left the US before or after being diagnosed.

Most of the time, people with polio can pass it on to others for about two weeks after they get sick.

Officials said that the person shouldn't be contagious right now because that time period has passed and they have a healthy immune system.

But the disease may have spread to other people before it was found.

In this country, the oral polio vaccine is no longer allowed.

Since 2000, the US has only given the inactivated polio vaccine.

A person can't get polio from the vaccine itself, but in recent years, there have been cases of polio in places with low vaccination rates that have been linked to the oral vaccine.

Health officials think this is where the strain of virus the person got came from.

When this weakened strain of the virus spreads among people who aren't immune, which usually happens in places with bad sanitation, the virus can change into a form that makes people paralyzed.

Wild polioviruses, which now only live in Pakistan and Afghanistan, are different from the viruses used in vaccines.

In Rockland County, there is an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community where the number of people who get vaccinated has been very low in the past.

In 2018 and 2019, Rockland County was the center of a large measles outbreak that spread to 312 people and lasted for almost a year.

Before the outbreak, only 8% of people in the county had been vaccinated against measles, mumps, and rubella, according to county health officials.

"Based on what we know about this case and polio in general, the Department of Health strongly recommends that unvaccinated people get the FDA-approved IPV polio vaccine or a booster shot as soon as possible," State Health Commissioner Mary T. Bassett said in a statement on Thursday.

"The polio vaccine is safe and effective. It protects against this potentially crippling disease, and health officials and public health agencies across the country recommend that all children get it as a routine immunization."

Polio was once very common in the US and all over the world.

In 1952, when there was one of the worst outbreaks, the virus infected 58,000 people in the US, left more than 21,000 of them paralyzed, and killed more than 3,100 of them.

But vaccination campaigns cut the number of cases by a lot.

The last case of polio that happened on its own in the US happened in 1979.

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