US Reporter

Polio Outbreak: CDC to Devise Oral Vaccine

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention plans to devise an oral vaccine for polio in light of an outbreak in New York.

The United States declared itself polio-free in 1979. Since then, no local polio infections have troubled the country. However, over the summer, a man got infected with the virus, leading to intensive hospital care and paralysis. This alerted the federal authorities and the CDC. To stave off the crisis, senior officials of the CDC declared an emergency and used its resources to keep watch of possible further outbreaks.

“We are in discussions with our New York State and New York City colleagues about the use of nOPV,” said Dr. Janell Routh, the leader for domestic polio in the CDC.

According to health authorities, the oral form of the vaccine proves to be safer and more stable. They added that the oral polio vaccine bares a lesser risk of mutation.

“It will be a process. It’s not something that we can pull the trigger on and have it appear overnight. There will be lots of thought and discussion about the reintroduction of an oral polio vaccine into the United States,” Routh added.

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Battling polio again

The CDC partnered with the New York State Department of Health in the crisis, with the latter citing its willingness to work with the former to respond to the outbreak effectively. The oral polio vaccine was already available before. However, drug regulators in the country had to pull out the vaccines from the shelf due to problems.

The vaccines contain a live strain of the virus that, in rare instances, mutates into a more contagious and aggressive form. As a result, it could potentially affect unvaccinated people, causing paralysis and death. According to scientists, the recent outbreak in New York stemmed from an individual vaccinated with the oral polio vaccine in the late 1990s.

Scientists added that they could not pinpoint where the transmission began. However, they surmised it came from another country and eventually found its way to the US. When scientists tested the sample in New York, it matched the strain found in London and Jerusalem.

The oral vaccine only presents a lower risk of mutating. However, the recent strain became more violent, affecting people. It led to the paralysis of a man, which is a rare circumstance for the oral vaccine to do.

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Increasing vaccination campaigns

The US has since launched a vaccination campaign in response to the polio outbreak. The country currently approves the doling out of inactivated vaccines that do not replicate, mutate, or lead to polio. While the New York Health Department followed suit, the state did not stop the outbreak.

“Since this outbreak occurred in New York, it was determined that we need to revisit polio. It’s really that simple,” said Dr. Oliver Brooks from Watts Healthcare in Los Angeles.

“As long as we have wastewater detections of this circulating virus linked back to the case patient’s virus, we know there is ongoing transmission in the community even without paralysis,” Routh added.

“If we start to see this virus break out of its current geography and population, I think then we need to start thinking about other methods,” she concluded.

Photo Credit: Ezra Acayan

Source: CNBC

Opinions expressed by US Reporter contributors are their own.



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