New York man may have contracted polio on U.S. soil
A polio in Upstate New York may be the first person in more than 40 years to contract the disease on U.S. soil, evidence suggests.
The unnamed patient is a 20-year-old Hasidic Jewish man who lives with his parents and wife in Rockland County, a local publication and the Washington Post reports.
He was released from hospital earlier this month after seeking care in June, but paralysis from the disease has left him struggling to walk – although he can now stand.
The man had not been vaccinated against the disease, with the three-dose course being more than 99 percent effective at preventing infection. There are no effective treatments for polio.
Health sources – speaking on condition of anonymity – revealed to the Post on Thursday that he had traveled to Poland and Hungary earlier this year.
But the Rockland Department of Health told DailyMail.com the man had not traveled within the infection window — until 21 days before symptoms appeared — meaning he likely contracted the virus on U.S. soil. The last time the virus spread on U.S. soil was in 1979, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
New York officials announced Thursday that they had discovered a case of polio in an unnamed man in Rockland County (red). They think the case may have originated abroad
This is the first case of polio discovered in the US since 2013. The once-devastating virus has been nearly eradicated from much of the world after a successful vaccine campaign in the last 1900s (file photo)
After hearing the travel history of the case, Dr. Adam Ratner, the director of pediatric infectious diseases at NYU Langone’s Hassenfel Children’s Hospital, told DailyMail.com that this made it likely that the patient had contracted the virus in the United States.
But he pointed out that the transmission windows were “inaccurate,” suggesting the patient may have been previously infected but developed no symptoms.
Ratner said that in the “best case” scenario, the man would have been infected by someone who had traveled to the US after being vaccinated and was shedding the virus.
But at the other end of the scale, he warned the case could be a “canary in a coal mine” for more widespread transmission in the community.
Polio: Once America’s Most Feared Disease, Now a Rarity
Polio is a serious viral infection that used to be common around the world.
The virus lives in the throat and gut for up to six weeks, with patients being most contagious from seven to 10 days before and after the onset of symptoms.
But it can spread to the spinal cord and cause muscle weakness and paralysis.
The virus is more common in infants and young children and occurs under 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.
About one in 50 patients develops severe muscle pain and stiffness in the neck and back.
Less than one percent of polio cases lead to paralysis and one in ten of those leads to death.
Of those who develop symptoms, they usually appear three to 21 days after infection and include:
- High temperature
- Sore throat
- Stomach ache
- sore muscles
- Nausea and vomiting
How does it spread?
People can contract polio from airborne droplets when someone coughs or sneezes, or when they come into contact with the feces of an infected person.
This includes food, water, clothing or toys.
Are there different tribes?
There are three types of “wild” polio, which have been largely eradicated in Europe, the Americas, Southeast Asia, and the Western Pacific.
Types 2 and 3 were eliminated thanks to a global mass vaccine campaign, with the latest cases being discovered in 1999 and 2012, respectively.
The remaining, type 1, wild polio remains endemic in only two countries, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Wild polio has been eradicated 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 made their way into the community and evolved to behave more like the wild version.
Does Polio Still Exist in the US?
The last case of person-to-person transmission in the US was in 1979, which was also the last case of wild polio.
But since then, there have been several dozen cases of vaccine-derived polioviruses, albeit one-off, with no further 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 shot at two months of age. It is also administered at ages four, six to 18 months, and four to six years.
Take-up has fallen slightly, but remains above 90 percent nationally.
There are concerns that vaccine hesitancy has increased during the Covid crisis due to the spread of misinformation about shots for that virus and school closures.
It is investigated where and when the patient is infected with polio.
Tests showed he was infected with a vaccine-derived strain.
Several countries — but not the United States — still use oral polio vaccines (OPV), which deploy a live form of the virus.
In very rare cases, the polio used in these shots can revert to the more dangerous ancestral strain that can cause paralysis. Ratner said the risk of this was between one and two million per shot.
Since 2000, the United States has only used the inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) that does not carry this risk.
Sources told the Washington Post that the polio was initially diagnosed with acute flaccid myelitis – a serious neurological condition caused by inflammation of the spinal cord – when he saw the doctor in late June.
But tests showed he was infected with a type of polio found only in vaccines.
Jewish Week in New York reported that several sources had identified the patient as a Hasidic Jew.
When asked if it was possible that the man contracted the virus abroad, a spokeswoman for the Rockland County Department of Health said it wasn’t possible.
“The person has not traveled outside the country during what would have been the transmission period,” they told DailyMail.com.
“Keep in mind that up to 95 percent of infected people have no symptoms, which makes detecting the transmission difficult.”
Asked at a press conference yesterday whether the man contracted the virus abroad, local commissioner Dr Patricia Ruppert said: “They have no trips outside the country.”
Hungary eradicated polio in 1969 and Poland in 1984. Neither country has recently reported a case of the virus.
America has recorded several cases since it eradicated polio in 1979 — including in 2013 — but these have been linked to overseas transmission.
Although the virus has been eradicated in the US and much of the world thanks to vaccination, it remains endemic in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Numerous cases have also been identified in Africa, the Middle East and Asia in recent years. In June, the UK also reported polio virus in sewer samples, suggesting the virus is circulating undetected in the country.
As to whether more cases would arise in the US, Ruppert said: “We only have one case. Let’s hope that’s all we find.’
Polio is a viral infection that in severe cases can spread to the spinal cord and cause paralysis. About one in ten people who suffer from this die from the disease.
Most people who get it don’t show any symptoms of the virus, but one in four people infected will develop flu-like symptoms such as sore throat, fever, and abdominal pain.
One in 25 will see their spinal cord infected, which will then lead to paralysis.
Vaccination is the most effective way to prevent the disease because there are no effective treatments for people who get it.
Children in the United States are routinely offered a three-dose vaccination course, with the first injection given at two months and the last at 18 months of age.
They also receive a booster shot between the ages of four and six, which is more than 99 percent effective at preventing infection.
In recent years and amid the Covid disruption, the US has fallen behind in vaccinating against the disease.
CDC data showed that about 92.6 percent of Americans were fully vaccinated against the virus by their second birthday, which is below the WHO’s recommended level of 95 percent to prevent an outbreak.
Rockland County has a vaccination clinic today and Monday so people can start or catch up on their vaccination courses. The federal government has sent 300 doses.
Polio was once the most feared disease in the US, sparking panic that scared parents to let their children play outside and saw public health officials impose quarantines on homes and even entire cities where the disease was noticed.
It caused more than 15,000 paralysis a year and hundreds of deaths.
But in the mid-1950s, the country began rolling out poliovirus vaccines to prevent the disease.
In 1979, the United States declared that the virus had been eliminated.
dr. Mary Bassett, Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett, urged Americans to get vaccinated against polio yesterday: “Based on what we know about this case, and polio in general, the Department of Health strongly recommends that unvaccinated individuals be vaccinated or get a boost with FDA-approved IPV polio. vaccinate as soon as possible.
“The polio vaccine is safe and effective, it protects against this potentially debilitating disease, and it has been part of the backbone of the required routine childhood vaccinations recommended by health officials and public health agencies across the country.”