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A top health official believes polio may affect hundreds more people in New York City. The city confirmed the virus’s re-emergence last month after an adult tested positive and suffered paralysis as a result.
The New York State Health Commissioner, Mary Bassett, agreed with the health official’s statement and predicted that the country would face a larger outbreak of the virus. According to Bassett, this is due to cases of unvaccinated people contracting polio, as well as confirmation of the virus’s presence along 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 said. “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.”
Because polio has not been in many states for several years, some people have stopped getting vaccinated. Bassett urges people to get the shots, particularly infants and adults; pregnant women can also get the shots. Infants as young as two months old could be given vaccine shots.
Bassett added, “As we learn more, what we do know is clear: The danger of polio is present in New York today.”
Poliovirus has re-emerged
Last month, New York City health officials confirmed the first case of polio from an unvaccinated Rockland County resident. The patient was hospitalized and paralyzed. After the confirmation, health officials discovered the polio virus in Rockland County and nearby Orange County wastewater lines.
Scientists discovered that the virus found in the sewage lines was genetically related to the strain that was affecting the unvaccinated adult confined in New York. Health officials, however, clarified that this does not imply that the individual has spread the virus. Instead, this could indicate that local transmissions have already begun.
The Department of Health of the New York State said, “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.”
Across the state, 79% have received polio vaccinations. Locally, Rockland County has a vaccination rate of more than 60%, while Orange County has a rate of 58%.
The country’s struggle against the virus
More than four decades have passed since the United States detected polio within its borders. In 1979, the country was declared polio-free. While this is true, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported isolated cases of confirmed polio cases entering the country. Polio was discovered between 1990 and 2013, according to state health officials’ records.
The polio vaccine is typically administered to children four times as they age. When the child is just two months old, the first dose should be given; the next doses should be given at four months, 18 months, and six years old, respectively. Adults would need three doses if they did not receive the vaccinations.
If polio-positive, what would a patient feel
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, polio is “a disabling and life-threatening disease. The virus spreads from person to person and can infect a person’s spinal cord, causing paralysis.”
72 out of every 100 infected individuals will not show any obvious signs of the illness. And meanwhile, 25 out of 100 people will exhibit flu-like symptoms. The signs include:
- Sore throat
- Stomach pain
Polio could also lead to life-threatening complications like:
You can learn more about poliovirus – its history, symptoms, and medication – by visiting the website of the CDC.
Opinions expressed by CEO Weekly contributors are their own.