New York adult diagnosed with polio, first US case in nearly a decade

The unvaccinated young adult began experiencing weakness and paralysis about a month ago, county health commissioner Dr. Patricia Schnabel Ruppert said Thursday.

The case comes nearly a month after Britain’s Health Security Agency warned it had detected poliovirus in its monitoring of London sewage samples, indicating there had been some spread between closely linked individuals in north and east London, although no cases have been identified there. .

Poliomyelitis is an infection caused by the poliovirus. About 1 in 4 infected people have flu-like symptoms, including sore throat, fever, fatigue, nausea, headache and stomach pain. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, up to 1 in 200 people will develop more severe symptoms, including tingling and numbness in the legs, infection of the brain or spinal cord, and paralysis.
There is no cure for poliomyelitis. Treatment for symptoms may include medication to relax the muscles and heat and physical therapy to stimulate the muscles. However, any paralysis caused by poliomyelitis is permanent.

“This patient presented with weakness and paralysis,” Schnabel Ruppert 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 the polio vaccine.

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

The polio vaccine is part of the standard CDC immunization schedule and is required for school attendance. Vaccinated people should not be at risk.

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

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

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

Typically, people who catch poliomyelitis can pass it on to others for about two weeks. Officials said the individual is not expected to be contagious at this time as they are past that time window and have normal immune function. But others may have been exposed before the case was diagnosed.

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The oral poliomyelitis vaccine is no longer authorized in this country. In the United States, only the inactivated poliomyelitis vaccine has been administered since 2000.

A person cannot get polio from the vaccine itself, but in recent years cases of polio linked to oral vaccine shedding have emerged in communities with low vaccination rates. Health officials believe the strain of virus the individual contracted originated this way.

When this weakened strain of the virus circulates in underimmunized populations – usually in areas with poor sanitary conditions – the virus can acquire mutations and revert to a form that causes paralysis. These vaccine-derived viruses are different from wild polioviruses, which now only circulate in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

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

“Based on what we know about this case and polio in general, the Department of Health strongly recommends that unvaccinated individuals be vaccinated or boosted with the FDA-approved IPV polio vaccine as soon as possible,” said said state health commissioner Mary T. Bassett. in a statement Thursday. “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.”
Polio cases were once common in the United States and around the world. In one of the most severe epidemics in 1952, the virus infected 58,000 people in the United States, paralyzed more than 21,000 and killed more than 3,100. However, vaccination campaigns significantly reduces cases. The last natural case of poliomyelitis in the United States dates back to 1979.

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