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Is Polio the Latest Virus We Need to Worry About? Here’s What to Know

Last month, the first case of polio was reported in the United States in nearly a decade.



The United States saw its first case of polio in nearly ten years last month. It was reported that an unvaccinated New York state resident was hospitalized with paralytic polio, and an official investigation was launched by the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) and the Rockland County Department of Health to determine how the patient contracted polio and who may have been exposed.

As a result of their findings, the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (NYCDOHMH) released a statement to the media on August 12 confirming the presence of poliovirus in the city’s sewage system.

Hundreds more cases of paralytic polio may go unreported, according to State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett’s statement. “Finding poliovirus in NYC wastewater is concerning, but not unexpected. The State Department of Health has already begun its rapid response, working closely with local and federal partners to aggressively assess the spread of the disease, while also continuing to investigate potential cases. Safe and effective immunization is New Yorkers’ best defense against the worst outcomes of polio, such as permanent paralysis or death, and the best way to keep adults and children polio-free.”

Amesh Adalja, MD, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security and an expert in infectious diseases, has stated that the unvaccinated are the most vulnerable. The “largest sustained decline in childhood vaccinations in approximately 30 years” has been reported by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). This year, 6.7 million more children did not receive the third dose of the polio vaccine. The World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund report that “inadequate coverage levels have already resulted in avoidable outbreaks of measles and polio” in the past 12 months.

Is there anything you can do to safeguard yourself and your young ones? Read on for details about polio, its transmission, and the polio vaccine.

Explain polio to me, please.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warn that the poliovirus can cause a devastating disease. According to the Mayo Clinic, it spreads from person to person through coughing, sneezing, or coming into contact with feces, tainted food, or water.

Most people infected with polio do not develop symptoms and may not even realize they have the disease. Some people may suffer for up to a week and a half from flu-like symptoms. The Mayo Clinic lists the following as possible signs: high body temperature, sore throat, headache, pain or stiffness in the arms and legs, muscle weakness, vomiting, pain and stiffness in the back and neck, and extreme fatigue.

Paralytic polio can cause temporary or permanent paralysis, disability, bone deformities, and even death in some people. In addition to the flu-like symptoms, loss of reflexes, severe muscle aches or weakness, and flaccid paralysis are all symptoms of paralytic polio (floppy limbs).

Surely Polio has been eradicated at this point.

The United States declared polio eliminated (not eradicated) in 1979 after decades of vaccination efforts. According to the CDC, polio outbreaks in the 1950s annually resulted in more than 15,000 paralysis cases. After vaccinations were made available in the United States in 1955 and again in 1963, the number of polio cases dropped to less than 10 by the 1970s. Still, rising anti-vaccine sentiments have contributed to the spread of polio and other diseases that are easily preventable through vaccination. Director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases Dr. José R. Romero has described the recent outbreak as a “epidemic.” “and pointed out that, “it’s likely that there are many people infected with polio and shedding the virus in these communities,” which was described as “sobering.” In the same vein, this serves as a timely and tangible call to action regarding the value of vaccinations “that’s what the AP is reporting.

The transmission mechanism of polio.

Poliovirus is transmitted from person to person. According to Dr. Adalja, this “fecal oral spread virus” can cause paralysis in extremely unusual cases by damaging the spinal cord. According to the CDC, the virus lives in the respiratory tract and the gastrointestinal tract of an infected person. And in “unsanitary conditions,” it can “contaminate food and water.” The incubation period for this virus is between 2 weeks before symptoms appear and 2 weeks after. Those infected but showing no signs of illness can also spread it to others.

Can Polio Be Cured?

According to Dr. Adalja, the only way to avoid getting polio is to get vaccinated.

Only the inactivated polio vaccine (IPV), administered via injection into an arm or leg, is currently approved for use in the United States. In his opinion, “it is a universal vaccine and highly effective,” Dr. Adalja says. The vaccine is recommended by the CDC as part of the standard series of shots given to children. The polio vaccine is currently administered in four separate doses, beginning at two months of age and continuing at four months of age, six to eighteen months of age, and four to six years of age.

Adults may not be protected against polio if they did not receive all four doses of the vaccine. In this case, the CDC recommends that all adults who have not yet received all of their IPV doses do so. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) maintains a list of contacts that can be used to determine whether or not you have received the complete polio vaccination.

New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasa said in a statement, “There is simply nothing more essential than vaccinating our children to protect them from this virus.” He also urged adults who have not been vaccinated or who have only received partial immunizations to make the decision to do so now. The reemergence of polio is a wake-up call because it is entirely preventable.