Polio case detected in New York, first case in the United States since 2013

  • An adult with polio is the first person to be diagnosed with the disease in the United States since 2013.
  • The man developed paralysis.
  • Experts say the disease is transmitted orally through saliva or feces

Last week, the New York Department of Health (NYDOH) announced that an unvaccinated young adult in New York had recently contracted poliomyelitis.

According to health officials, this is the first recorded case in the United States since 2013.

They also say the patient, from Rockland County, NY, developed paralysis after symptoms began about a month ago and had not recently traveled outside the country.

The NYSDOH confirmed that it is coordinating with the Rockland County Health Department and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (NYCDOHMH) to continue investigating the cases, ” respond proactively” and protect communities from the spread of disease by urging vaccination.

State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said in a statement that the Department of Health strongly recommends that anyone who has not been vaccinated gets the polio shot as soon as possible.

“The polio vaccine is safe and effective, protecting against this potentially debilitating disease,” she continued. “And it’s part of the backbone of required routine childhood immunizations recommended by health officials and public health agencies nationwide.”

The polio vaccine is included in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) standard childhood immunization schedule and part of the mandatory school vaccination schedule for all children.

However, NYSDOH is warning Rockland County residents that unvaccinated people, including those who are pregnant, have not yet completed their series of polio vaccines, or community members concerned they may have been exposed. , should be vaccinated.

They add that people already vaccinated but at risk of exposure should receive a booster shot.

Given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it’s understandable to be concerned.

However, Theodore Strange, MD, associate chair of medicine, University Hospital of Staten Island, Staten Island, New York, said the disease is not transmitted in the same way.

“In the 1940s there was a pandemic in children, transmitted by what we call the fecal-oral route,” he explained. “It’s not something that spreads like COVID, a respiratory virus, in other words if you sneeze.”

Strange mentioned the March of Dimes campaign of the late 1930s and into the 1940s, which involved contributing a penny to eradicate polio until vaccines were available.

There are two different types of vaccines: one that may contain live attenuated virus, which is oral poliomyelitis virus, and the other with inactivated virus given by injection.

Since 2000, the only type of polio vaccine administered in the United States is type with an inactivated virus.

“About three-quarters of infected patients will show no symptoms,” said Charles Bailey, MD, medical director of infection control at Providence St. Joseph and Providence Mission Hospital in Orange County, California.

Bailey said the remaining quarter may experience “transient flu-like symptoms” which include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Stomach ache
  • Sore throat

“A much smaller number, [much less than] 1 in 100 will have neurological symptoms such as weakness or paralysis,” he said. “These most serious cases [may have] mortality up to 10 percent.

“Children under the age of 5 are the greatest risk group,” said Regine Cherazard, MD, internal medicine specialist and residency program director at Long Island Jewish Forest Hills in Queens. “However, anyone who is not vaccinated can become infected.”

Cherazard said there is still no cure and treatment is simply to treat the symptoms. Prevention is therefore the best strategy.

“Supportive treatment may include pain management, physiotherapy, close monitoring of vital signs, and mechanical ventilation for respiratory failure,” she said.

Strange said that due to our country’s vaccination program, this is likely an isolated case – but warned that unvaccinated individuals or groups are still at risk.

Pockets of unvaccinated people due to shared beliefs, religious or otherwise, can mean that the whole community is at greater risk of an outbreak.

NYDOH has confirmed that the type of poliomyelitis identified is a revertant poliomyelitis Sabin virus type 2, indicating that it was from a person who received the oral polio vaccine, which contains live but weakened poliovirus. This is no longer given in the United States and is used in other countries where medical care may be scarce. Since it is an oral vaccine, it can be administered by volunteers rather than by a doctor.

In rare cases, the vaccine can lead to a case of poliomyelitis, but in general children are much less likely to get sick from the vaccine than from the virus.

“Obviously they will continue to monitor this based on epidemiological surveillance,” Strange said.

Rockland County, NY, health officials have identified the first US case of polio infection since 2013.

Experts say the disease is transmitted orally through saliva or feces and that unvaccinated people and unvaccinated people under five are most at risk.

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