Digitally generated image of the 3D molecular model of the polio virus
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Hundreds could have polio after an adult in the New York City metro area contracted the virus and became paralyzed last month, the state’s top health official said this week.
New York State Health Commissioner Mary Bassett warned that a confirmed case of polio in an unvaccinated adult, along with detection of the virus in sewage outside the nation’s largest city, could indicate producing a larger shoot.
“Based on past polio outbreaks, New Yorkers should know that for every case of paralytic polio seen, there may be hundreds of other people infected,” Bassett said. “Coupled with the latest sewage findings, the department is treating the single case of polio as just the tip of the iceberg of a much larger potential spread.”
Bassett said it’s crucial for children to be vaccinated before 2 months of age, and all adults, including pregnant women, who haven’t received their shots should do so right away.
“As we learn more, what we do know is clear: The danger of polio is present in New York today,” Bassett said.
New York state health officials confirmed last month that an unvaccinated adult in Rockland County contracted polio and was hospitalized with paralysis. Health officials later found three positive samples for polio in sewage from Rockland County and four positive samples in sewage from adjacent Orange County.
Wastewater samples that tested positive for polio are genetically linked to the strain that the unvaccinated adult caught. The findings do not indicate that the person who contracted polio was the source of transmission, but local spread could be underway, health officials said.
“These findings provide further evidence of local, not international, transmission of a polio virus that can cause paralysis and possible community spread, underscoring the urgency for all New York adults and children to get vaccinated,” he said. the New York State Department of Health.
Rockland County has a 60% polio vaccination rate, while Orange County has a 58% vaccination rate, according to health officials. The statewide polio vaccination rate is nearly 79%.
The US was declared polio-free in 1979 and there has been no case in the country since then, but travelers have occasionally brought the virus into the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. New York last confirmed a case of polio in 1990 and the United States previously confirmed a case in 2013, according to state health officials.
Children should receive four doses of the polio vaccine. The first dose should be given at 2 months of age, the second dose at 4 months, the third at 18 months and the fourth at 6 years, according to state health officials. Unvaccinated adults should receive three doses.
Polio is a devastating, highly infectious virus that can cause paralysis. The virus struck fear into the hearts of parents in the 1940s, before vaccines were available. More than 35,000 people were paralyzed each year from polio during that period. But a successful vaccination campaign in the 1950s and 1960s dramatically reduced the number of cases.