US Reporter

Polio Case Confirmed in New York may be the First of Many, says New York State Health Official

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A top health official believes that there are possibly hundreds more affected by polio within New York City. Last month, the city confirmed the re-emergence of the virus after an adult tested positive and suffered paralysis as a result.

Mary Bassett, the New York State Health commissioner, agreed with the statement from the health official and said that the country might be headed for a bigger outbreak of the virus. According to Bassett, this is because of the cases of unvaccinated people against polio as well as the confirmation of the presence of the virus along the sewage lines outside the city.

“Based on earlier polio outbreaks, New Yorkers should know that for every one case of paralytic polio observed; there may be hundreds of other people infected,” Bassett stated. “Coupled with the latest wastewater findings, the department is treating the single case of polio as just the tip of the iceberg of much greater potential spread.”

Some people have been neglecting to get polio vaccines since it has not emerged. With the development, Bassett urges people to get the shots, especially infants and adults – pregnant women can also get the shots. Infants as young as 2 months could also be permitted to receive the vaccine shots.

“As we learn more, what we do know is clear: The danger of polio is present in New York today,” Bassett added.

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The first case in decades

It was last month when health officials from New York City confirmed the first case of polio from an unvaccinated individual from Rockland County. The patient was hospitalized and suffered paralysis. Following the confirmation, health officials detected the polio virus in wastewater lines across Rockland County and the sewage area near Orange County.

Upon careful inspection of the strain, scientists found that the virus found in the sewage lines was all genetically related to the strain affecting the unvaccinated adult in New York. However, health officials clarified that it does not mean that the individual has spread the virus. Instead, this could mean that local transmissions may have already started.

“These findings provide further evidence of local — not international — transmission of a poliovirus that can cause paralysis and potential community spread, underscoring the urgency of every New York adult and child getting immunized,” said the Department of Health of the New York State.

Across the state, 79% have had vaccinations against polio. Locally, Rockland County has over 60% vaccination rate, whereas Orange County has 58%.

US fight against polio

It has been more than four decades since the United States detected polio within its borders. The country was declared polio-free in 1979. While this is so, there are isolated cases of confirmed polio cases entering the country, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As per records of state health officials, polio was detected in 1990 and 2013.

Usually, children get four doses of the polio vaccine scheduled as the child grows up. The first dose should be given when the child is still 2 months old; the next is 4 months, then 18 months, and the last dose should be administered at 6 years old. Adults who did not receive the vaccine shots would have to receive three doses.

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In the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, the agency describes polio as “a disabling and life-threatening disease. The virus spreads from person to person and can infect a person’s spinal cord, causing paralysis.”

Of the people affected by the virus, 72 out of 100 will not manifest the symptoms visibly. Meanwhile, 25 of the 100 will have flu-like symptoms. The symptoms include:

  • Sore throat
  • Fever
  • Tiredness
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Stomach pain

More serious cases may lead to life-threatening complications like:

  • Paresthesia
  • Meningitis
  • Paralysis

Learn more on the US CDC website.

Source: CNBC

Opinions expressed by US Reporter contributors are their own.