America’s first case of polio in nearly a decade has been detected in Upstate New York, health chiefs revealed Thursday.
The patient—who has not been named—was diagnosed in Rockland County after visiting medics when they became unwell.
Health officials said the individual is believed to have been infected outside of the United States, but did not say where.
They have not revealed their age, gender, travel history, vaccination status or what symptoms they suffered.
It is the first case of polio to be spotted in the United States since 2013.
Children in the US are routinely offered the polio vaccine to protect against the debilitating disease which leads to paralysis in about one in 100 cases. Of people who are paralyzed, up to one in ten die from the disease.
But in recent years the population immunity level has fallen below the threshold needed to prevent an outbreak in the country.
The case has been detected in Rockland County, Upstate New York. Officials believe the patient was infected abroad
Announcing the case today, New York’s Department of Health told health care providers to remain on the look out for additional cases.
They also urged anyone who has not been vaccinated against the disease or not completed their vaccination course to get the jabs, because these individuals are most at risk from severe disease.
Health Commissioner Dr Mary Bassett said: ‘Based on what we know about this case, and polio in general, the Department of Health strongly recommends that unvaccinated individuals get vaccinated or boosted with FDA-approved IPV polio vaccine as soon as possible.
‘The polio vaccine is safe and effective, protecting against this potentially debilitating disease, and it has been part of the backbone of required, routine childhood immunizations recommended by health officials and public health agencies nationwide.’
Testing revealed the patient was infected with a strain of polio from someone who had received the oral polio vaccine. This has not been used in the US since 2000, which health officials said suggested they were infected outside the country.
Polio is a potentially disabling and life-threatening disease, which in serious cases can spread to the spinal cord triggering paralysis and even death.
It is highly contagious and spreads after someone touches a surface contaminated with an infected person’s feces and then their own mouth.
About one in four people who catch the virus develop flu-like symptoms including a sore throat, fever, tiredness and stomach pain.
One in 25 will go on to suffer meningitis — when the spinal cord is infected — and later paralysis. Of these, up to one in ten die from the infection.
Urging people to get vaccinated, 72-year-old Rockland County Executive Ed Day said: ‘Many of you may be too young to remember polio, but when I was growing up, this disease struck fear into families including my own.
‘The fact that it is still around decades after the vaccine was created shows you just how relentless it is.
‘Do the right thin for your child and the greater good of your community and have your child vaccinated now.’
Health chiefs said a vaccination clinic would open in Pomona, Rockland County, from 10am to noon tomorrow, and on Monday from 1pm to 4pm.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all children should get the polio vaccine.
It is given as four shots in the leg or arm, with the first given at two months old, the second at four months, the third between six and 18 months and the final dose between four and six years old.
The vaccine is highly effective, with 99 percent of children receiving life-long protection against the disease.
In the late 1940s, polio outbreaks struck fear into the heart of the United States because of the disease’s terrible effects.
Parents were left afraid to let their children play outside — particularly in summer when the virus appeared to be more common —, public health officials would impose quarantines on homes and even whole towns where it was spotted.
Last month, a Polio case was detected in the UK, putting many of high alert that America’s 93 percent vaccination coverage was not high enough to deal with a potential outbreak of the virus.
The virus has been nearly eradicated across much of the world after a strong vaccination campaign starting in the 1950s. It remains endemic to Pakistan and Afghanistan, though.
WHAT IS POLIO?
Polio is a serious viral infection that used to be common all over the world.
The virus lives in the throat and intestines for up to six weeks, with patients most infectious from seven to 10 days before and after the onset of symptoms.
But it can spread to the spinal cord causing muscle weakness and paralysis.
The virus is more common in infants and young children and occurs under conditions of poor hygiene.
How deadly is it?
Most people show no signs of infection at all but about one in 20 people have minor symptoms such as fever, muscle weakness, headache, nausea and vomiting.
Around one in 50 patients develop severe muscle pain and stiffness in the neck and back.
Less than one per cent of polio cases result in paralysis and one in 10 of those result in death.
Of those who develop symptoms, these tend to appear three-to-21 days after infection and include:
- High temperature
- sore throat
- Abdominal bread
- aching muscles
- Nausea and vomiting
How does it spread?
People can catch polio via droplets in the air when someone coughs or sneezes, or if they come into contact with the faeces of an infected person.
This includes food, water, clothing or toys.
Are there different strains?
There are three strains of ‘wild’ polio, which has been largely eradicated throughout Europe, the Americas, Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific.
Types 2 and 3 were eliminated thanks to a global mass vaccine campaign, with the last cases detected in 1999 and 2012 respectively.
The remaining, type 1, wild polio remains endemic in only two countries, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Wild polio has been eliminated in almost every country in the world thanks to vaccines.
But the global rollout has spawned new types of strains known as vaccine-derived polioviruses.
These are strains that were initially used in live vaccines but spilled out into the community and evolved to behave more like the wild version.
Is polio still around in the UK?
The last polio outbreak was in the 1970s.
The last case of person-to-person transmission in the UK was in 1984, which also marked the last wild polio case.
But there have been several dozen cases of vaccine-derived polioviruses, although they have been one-offs, with no onward transmission.
Am I vaccinated against polio?
The polio vaccine is offered as part of the NHS routine childhood vaccination programme.
It is given at age eight, 12 and 16 weeks as part of the six-in-one vaccine and then again at three years as part of a pre-school booster. The final course is given at age 14.
Uptake has fallen slightly nationally during the Covid pandemic but remains above 90 per cent nationally. Rates are lower in London and in poor and ethnic minority communities.
Just 86.7 per cent of one-year-olds in London have had their first dose of polio vaccine compared to the UK average of 92.6 per cent.
There are concerns vaccine hesitancy has risen during the Covid crisis due to misinformation spread about jabs for that virus and school closures.