New York officials are warning that hundreds of Empire state residents may already be infected with the polio virus after it was found in the state’s second county’s sewage.
State surveillance found the presence of the polio virus in at least two separate locations in Orange County, New York — about an hour’s drive from New York City — in June and July. It comes within weeks of officials announcing a confirmed case of polio in Rockland County — northwest of the Big Apple’s Bronx borough. The virus was also discovered in Rockland’s wastewater last month.
Because polio is asymptomatic in most cases, it is likely that the diagnosis of one symptomatic case means that there may be hundreds of others who will never be diagnosed. The discovery of the virus in wastewater samples in several counties confirms fears that the virus had been circulating in the state for some time before the Rockland case was discovered.
Officials are urging the population to get vaccinated to prevent the re-emergence of the deadly virus. Orange and Rockland are both among the counties with the lowest coverage against the virus — at 59 and 60 percent, respectively. A person who has already been vaccinated is not believed to be at any risk.
Officials in New York warn there could already be ‘hundreds’ of New Yorkers infected with polio after at least three samples of contaminated water were detected in two counties outside New York City (file photo)
Rockland County (pictured) recorded a polio case in an unvaccinated person last month
“Based on early polio outbreaks, New Yorkers should know that for every case of paralysis observed, there may be hundreds of others infected,” said Dr. Mary Bassett, the state’s health commissioner.
‘With the latest contamination findings, the Department is treating a single case of polio as the tip of the iceberg of a much larger spread.
Polio: America’s most feared disease now rare
Polio is a deadly viral disease that used to be common all over the world.
The virus lives in the throat and intestines for up to six weeks, and patients are most contagious from seven to 10 days before and after the onset of symptoms.
But it can spread to the spine and cause muscle weakness and paralysis.
The virus is more common in infants and young children and occurs under poor hygiene conditions.
How deadly is it?
Most people do not show any symptoms of infection, but about one in 20 people have mild symptoms such as fever, muscle weakness, headache, nausea and vomiting.
About one in 50 patients experience severe muscle pain and stiffness in the neck and back.
Less than one percent of polio cases result in paralysis and one in 10 of those results in death.
Of those who develop symptoms, these usually appear three to 21 days after infection and include:
- High temperature
- Sore throat
- Abdominal pain
- Aching muscles
- Nausea and vomiting
How does it spread?
People can get polio through airborne droplets when someone coughs or sneezes, or if they come into contact with the feces of an infected person.
This includes food, water, clothes or toys.
Are there different types?
There are three types of ‘wild’ polio, which have been largely eradicated across Europe, the Americas, South-East Asia and the Western Pacific.
Types 2 and 3 were eliminated due to the global vaccination campaign, and the last cases were detected in 1999 and 2012 respectively.
The remaining polio, type 1, remains a disease in only two countries, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Wild polio has been eliminated in almost every country in the world thanks to vaccination.
But international distribution has produced new strains known as vaccine-derived polioviruses.
These are strains that were originally used in live vaccines but spilled into the community and evolved into the wild version.
Does polio still exist in the US?
The last case of person-to-person transmission in the United States was in 1979, which also marked the last case of wild polio.
But there have been several cases of vaccine-induced poliovirus since, although they have been episodic, with no ongoing transmission.
Am I vaccinated against polio?
Americans have been offered the inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) since 2000.
It is given as four doses, with the first jab at two months of age. It is also administered at four months, six to 18, and four to six years of age.
Consumption has declined slightly but remains above 90 percent nationally.
There are concerns that vaccine hesitancy has increased during the Covid crisis because of widespread misinformation about jabs for the virus and school closures.
‘As we learn more, what we know is clear: the danger of polio is in New York today. We must meet this time by ensuring that adults, including pregnant women, and young children up to 2 months of age are up to date with their vaccinations.’
New York state officials launched a polio screening effort in response to a confirmed case on July 21.
The case was confirmed by an Orthodox Jewish man in his 20s. He himself was unvaccinated, and contracted the vaccine-derived version of the virus.
Vaccine-induced polio can develop when a person receives a live virus vaccine – an oral vaccine that can pass the virus to others through stool contamination.
The vaccine is no longer in use in America, meaning it may have been passed down from a recipient abroad and eventually returned to this New Yorker.
She was paralyzed due to her infection and is now recovering at home after being hospitalized. It was reported earlier this week that he is still struggling to walk.
Given his lack of international travel during the normal period of infection, it is likely that he contracted the virus. This alerted the officers to start surveillance.
A sewage sample detected polio in Rockland County in June. It was also discovered in Orange County in June and July.
“Given how quickly polio can spread, now is the time for every adult, parent, and caregiver to get themselves and their children vaccinated as soon as possible,” Basset said.
Polio is a crippling and life-threatening disease, which in severe cases can spread to the spinal cord and cause paralysis and even death.
It is highly contagious and spreads after a person touches an area contaminated with the feces of an infected person and then their own mouth.
About one in four people who contract the virus develop flu-like symptoms including a sore throat, fever, fatigue and stomach aches.
One in 25 will go on to develop meningitis – when the spinal cord becomes infected – and later become paralyzed. Of these, up to one in ten die from the infection.
It was once the most feared disease in the United States, sparking a panic in the 1940s.
Parents were left afraid to let their children play outside – especially in the summer when the virus seemed to be common -, and public health officials would quarantine homes and even entire towns where it appeared.
It was behind more than 15,000 paralysis every year, and hundreds of deaths.
But in the mid-1950s, the country began offering the polio virus vaccine to prevent the disease.
By 1979, the United States declared that the virus had been eradicated. There have been no known infections on US soil since then.
The vaccine was also distributed around the world, with the virus being reintroduced to only a few countries.
Now it is only known to be around Pakistan and Afghanistan. WHO warns that the project continues to spread there, it is still a threat to the world.
But in recent years — as the virus has receded from national memory — vaccination rates have declined in the United States.
The latest statistics show that about 92.6 percent of Americans are now vaccinated against polio by their second birthday.
This is below the 95 percent level that the WHO says is needed to stop the outbreak.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all children should receive the polio vaccine.
It is given as four shots in the leg or arm, with the first given at two months of age, the second at four months, the third between six and 18 months and the final dose between four and six years.
The vaccine is highly effective, with 99 percent of children gaining lifelong immunity against the disease.
Source: | This article is originally from Dailymail.co.uk