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After a case of polio was reported in New York last month, many health officials started to worry about a potential resurgence of the disease. The reported case, according to a senior official from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is “just the very, very tip of the iceberg,” adding that hundreds more may have already been infected.
Rockland County was where the first case was reported. Low polio vaccination rates seem to be the problem in the area. People who are infected with the polio virus do not exhibit any symptoms, according to Dr. Jose Romero, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, which suggests that the virus may already be spreading covertly in the community.
“There are a number of individuals in the community that have been infected with poliovirus. They are shedding the virus. The spread is always a possibility because the spread is going to be silent,” Dr. Romero stated.
To learn more about the case, disease investigators from the CDC’s Atlanta headquarters traveled to Rockland County. That polio “could mushroom out of control very quickly and we could have a crisis on our hands” was a concern shared by all of them.
A patient who contracts polio is at risk of paralysis and death. The paralysis is frequently incurable. However, the battle to eradicate polio was launched decades ago. The United States was actually declared polio-free forty years ago. Many people have virus immunity as a result.
Despite this, many people still lack or receive insufficient vaccinations. Even though the national vaccination rate in the US is 93%, the CDC team warns that the rate in Rockland County, where the first poliovirus recurrence was confirmed, is only 60%.
To stop the polio virus from spreading, the CDC is currently developing potential interventions. It is now common practice to administer additional vaccinations to both adults and children. This is also the course of action being taken in London by the national health department.
The polio problem faced by America
The CDC reports that the polio case in Rockland County is the first known instance of the virus in decades. Furthermore, the virus that has been genetically linked to the strain of the Rockland County patient has made its way into the county’s sewage system as well as Orange County. Fortunately, outside of these areas, the virus has not been found by health authorities.
Most of the time, the poliovirus won’t show any symptoms. In fact, the CDC reported that 3 out of every 4 infected people don’t exhibit observable symptoms of the virus’s influence. Polio-positive people may experience headache and sore throat if they do. Others, however, may decide not to get checked at all because these are typical symptoms for other illnesses.
The infection causes paralysis in one out of every 200 infected people. Since their respiratory systems are impaired, the majority of these people die.
People should have education about polio
A vaccine educator suggested that the CDC develop alternative methods of reaching out to people regarding polio, particularly those who do not have access to the internet. A press release won’t do, the educator said, referring to the need for messaging that has resonance.
Many people continue to invalidate the notion of vaccination, despite the growing need to immunize and educate. However, people can be convinced to get the vaccine for themselves and their kids, says Dr. Mary Leahy, CEO of Bon Secours Charity Health System.
“I turn to the grandparents and the great-grandparents who actually lived through the days of polio in the ’40s and ’50s. I grew up in Mexico. I saw this disease, the complications. I went to school with children that had braces.”
“I think most of the American public has never seen a case of polio. People have lost that fear, if you will, of the disease.”