The first US case of polio in nearly a decade has been detected in upstate New York, health chiefs revealed Thursday.
The patient – who has not been named – was diagnosed in Rockland County after visiting doctors when he fell ill.
Health officials said the individual was believed to have been infected outside the United States, but did not specify where.
They did not reveal their age, gender, travel history, vaccination status or the symptoms they were suffering from.
This is the first case of polio to be detected in the United States since 2013.
In the United States, children routinely receive the polio vaccine to protect against the debilitating disease that causes paralysis in about one in 100 cases. Of those paralyzed, up to one in ten people die from it.
But in recent years, the level of immunity in the population has fallen below the threshold needed to prevent an epidemic in the country.
The case was detected in Rockland County in upstate New York. Authorities believe the patient was infected overseas
In announcing the case today, the New York Department of Health told health care providers to stay on the lookout for new cases.
They also urged anyone who has not been vaccinated against the disease or who has not completed their vaccination program to get vaccinated, as these people are most at risk of serious illness.
Health Commissioner Dr Mary Bassett said: ‘Based on what we know about this case and polio in general, the Department of Health strongly recommends that unvaccinated people be vaccinated or boosted with the FDA-approved IPV polio vaccine as soon as possible.
“The polio vaccine is safe and effective, protecting against this potentially debilitating disease, and it is part of the backbone of required routine childhood immunizations recommended by health officials and public health agencies nationwide. national.”
Tests revealed that the patient was infected with a strain of polio from a person who had received the oral polio vaccine. It hasn’t been used in the United States since 2000, which health officials say suggests they were infected outside the country.
Poliomyelitis is a potentially disabling and life-threatening disease that, in severe cases, can spread to the spinal cord, causing paralysis and even death.
It is highly contagious and is spread after someone touches a surface contaminated with an infected person’s feces and then their own mouth.
About one in four people who catch the virus develop flu-like symptoms, including a sore throat, fever, fatigue and stomach pain.
One in 25 people will suffer from meningitis – when the spinal cord is infected – and later from paralysis. Of these, up to one in ten die from the infection.
Urging people to get vaccinated, 72-year-old Rockland County executive Ed Day said: ‘Many of you may be too young to remember polio, but when I was growing up, this disease has sown fear in families, including mine.
“The fact that there are still decades after the creation of the vaccine shows you how relentless it is.
“Do the right thing for your child and the greater good of your community and get your child vaccinated now.”
Health chiefs said an immunization clinic will open in Pomona, Rockland County, from 10 a.m. to noon tomorrow and Monday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all children receive the polio vaccine.
It is given as four injections in the leg or arm, with the first given at two months, the second at four months, the third at six to 18 months and the final dose at four to six years.
The vaccine is highly effective, with 99% of children enjoying lifelong protection against the disease.
In the late 1940s, outbreaks of poliomyelitis struck fear into the heart of the United States due to the terrible effects of the disease.
Parents were afraid to let their children play outside — especially in the summer when the virus seemed to be more common — public health officials were imposing quarantines on homes and even entire towns where it was spotted.
Last month, a case of polio was detected in the UK, putting many on the alert that the US vaccination coverage of 93% was not high enough to deal with a possible outbreak of the virus.
The virus has been almost eradicated in much of the world after a strong vaccination campaign launched in the 1950s. It remains endemic in Pakistan and Afghanistan, however.
WHAT IS POLIOMYELITIS?
Poliomyelitis is a serious viral infection that was once common around the world.
The virus lives in the throat and intestines for up to six weeks, with patients being most infectious seven to 10 days before and after symptoms appear.
But it can spread to the spinal cord, causing muscle weakness and paralysis.
The virus is more common in infants and young children and occurs in conditions of poor hygiene.
How deadly is it?
Most people show no signs of infection, but about one in 20 people have minor symptoms such as fever, muscle weakness, headache, nausea and vomiting.
About one in 50 patients develop severe muscle pain and stiffness in the neck and back.
Less than one percent of poliomyelitis cases lead to paralysis and one in 10 of them leads to death.
Of those who do develop symptoms, these tend to appear three to 21 days after infection and include:
- High temperature
- Sore throat
- Abdominal pain
- sore muscles
- Nausea and vomiting
How does it spread?
People can catch polio through droplets in the air when someone coughs or sneezes, or if they come in contact with the feces of an infected person.
This includes food, water, clothing or toys.
Are there different strains?
There are three strains of ‘wild’ poliomyelitis, which have been largely eradicated throughout Europe, the Americas, Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific.
Types 2 and 3 were eliminated through a global mass vaccination campaign, with the last cases detected in 1999 and 2012 respectively.
The remaining wild polio, type 1, remains endemic in only two countries, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Wild poliomyelitis has been eliminated in almost every country in the world thanks to vaccines.
But the global rollout has spawned new types of strains known as vaccine-derived polioviruses.
These are strains originally used in live vaccines, but have spread through the community and evolved to behave more like the wild version.
Is polio still present in the UK?
The last polio epidemic dates back to the 1970s.
The last case of person-to-person transmission in the UK was in 1984, which also marked the last case of wild polio.
But there have been several dozen cases of vaccine-derived poliovirus, albeit one-time, with no onward transmission.
Am I vaccinated against polio?
The polio vaccine is offered as part of the NHS routine childhood immunization programme.
It is given at eight, 12 and 16 weeks of age as part of the six-in-one vaccine, and then again at age three as part of a preschool booster. The last lesson is given at age 14.
Adoption has declined slightly nationally during the Covid pandemic, but remains above 90% nationally. Rates are lower in London and in poor and ethnic minority communities.
Only 86.7% of one-year-olds in London received their first dose of polio vaccine, compared to a UK average of 92.6%.
It is feared that vaccine hesitancy has increased during the Covid crisis due to misinformation being spread about shots for this virus and school closures.