US polio vaccine coverage is SHORT of 95% threshold believed to be needed to control an outbreak
The United States is among more than 100 countries that have failed to meet recommended vaccination thresholds to control a potential polio outbreak, leaving America vulnerable to an outbreak of the devastating disease.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 92.6 percent of U.S. children have been vaccinated against polio by their second birthday, falling short of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) 95% threshold.
The virus – which can cause paralysis in some patients – has stopped in every country in the world except Pakistan and Afghanistan. The WHO warns that as long as it circulates in these countries, it will remain a threat around the world.
That threat was realized this week when the UK was placed on high alert after remains of an infection were found in the country’s sewers – indicating at least one active infection.
While polio vaccine uptake is strong in many countries – with over 90% coverage – many still don’t reach the 95% set by the WHO to control a potential infection. The US has vaccine coverage of just 92%
The WHO collects figures on the number of annuals that have been stung against polio.
Countries with weak polio vaccine uptake are “particularly vulnerable,” the WHO says.
Like the US, the UK also falls short of vaccination standards, with a vaccination rate of only 93 percent.
Only 46 countries providing data to the WHO have met the recommended target of 95 percent, including Australia, China and Japan.
But the uptake is less than half the level it should be in some countries.
Only 41 percent of annuals in Papua New Guinea have been vaccinated against polio, with only slightly better rates in the African countries of Central African Republic (46 percent), Somalia (47 percent) and Guinea (50 percent).
Polio can be a difficult disease to detect as the vast majority of cases will not show the devastating symptoms that have become synonymous with it.
Many infections are mild or asymptomatic. However, about one percent will lead to paralysis and even death.
It is believed that children are most at risk for the disease, although it can affect adults as well.
The United States has been free from polio for nearly three decades. The last case discovered on US soil was in 1993, when someone entered the country with the virus.
No cases have arisen in the US since 1979, it has been 44 years since there has been a US-borne infection.
Polio cases are rare outside Pakistan and Afghanistan, where the virus is endemic. The global number of cases declined in recent decades after the vaccine was developed in 1955
It is a clear shift from previous decades when the virus was rampant. The CDC reports that at one point it has disabled 35,000 Americans a year.
Notable cases include former US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, whose polio infection left him paralyzed from the trash.
Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, the current Republican minority leader, also contracted a case of polio at a young age that left his leg paralyzed. He has now fully recovered.
In 1955, the first polio vaccine was introduced, marking the end of the virus’s devastating reign in the U.S.
Health officials recommend that all children receive four doses of the vaccine: a first at two months of age, then at four months, at six to 18 months, and then a final shot between ages four and six.
Pictured: A woman in Liverpool, England, is being treated for polio
Pictured: Children get a sugar cube after receiving an oral polio vaccine in 1965
Cases of polio occasionally crop up in countries where the virus is not normally found.
Last year, Israeli officials discovered a case of the virus in a three-year-old girl who had not been vaccinated. It was the first case of the virus in the country since 1988.
The virus is also occasionally detected when monitoring wastewater in some developed countries. However, a high vaccination coverage combined with the usually mild nature of the virus prevents it from spreading.
It usually spreads through contact with contaminated food or water, usually through contamination with feces.
If a person consumes water contaminated with an infected person’s feces, they will likely be contaminated as well.
Modern water purification techniquesespecially in developed countries, have been announced to also drastically reduce the spread of the virus.
It is usually tested through a blood or stool sample. There are no treatments for the disease, but there are treatments available that can limit the long-term effects of symptoms if the patient survives.
The “iron lung,” a mechanical respirator that helps people breathe after their muscles become paralyzed, became an iconic symbol of the mid-century polio outbreak — as it was a last breath to help some with severe cases to survive a devastating condition.
How long does the polio vaccine last? What are the symptoms of the virus? How many people are infected in the UK? EVERYTHING you need to know amid fears of the paralysis-causing virus spreading
Wasn’t polio eradicated?
There are three versions of wild polio: type one, two, and three.
Type two was eradicated in 1999 and no more cases of type three have been detected since November 2012, when it was spotted in Nigeria.
Both species have been certified as globally eradicated.
But type one is still circulating in two countries: Pakistan and Afghanistan.
These versions of polio are nearly extinct because of 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.
How many people are infected?
Health chiefs have not yet discovered a real case.
Instead, they’ve only seen the virus in sewer samples.
But they said several closely related polioviruses were found in sewer samples taken in north and east London between February and May.
This suggests that there has been ‘probably’ spreading between mated individuals who are now shedding the strain in their feces.
The UK Health Security Agency is investigating community transmission.
It is hoped that the cases will be limited to a single household or extended family.
How does it spread?
It is spread between people through contact with food, water, or objects contaminated with the feces of someone who is infected.
Places with a high population, poor sanitation and many diarrhea-like illnesses are especially at risk of seeing the spread of polio.
Unvaccinated people are at high risk of contracting the infection.
There is some concern that the virus appears to be spreading in London, which has a poorer uptake of polio vaccines than the rest of the country.
How is polio diagnosed?
Doctors can recognize polio based on their symptoms.
If a person is in the first week of illness, a throat swab or a stool or blood sample may be taken for up to four weeks after symptoms begin.
The sample is then sent to a lab, with tests that then confirm whether the virus is present.
What does a national incident mean?
UKHSA guidelines state that when a vaccine-derived polio virus is spotted in Britain.
This instructs health chiefs to set up a national response to manage and coordinate the response.
It includes joining local public health teams.
Although the polio samples have only been seen in London, health chiefs say it is vital to ensure that other parts of the country are aware and take the necessary steps to protect the people in their areas.
Pictured: A young girl in the UK receives a shot of the polio vaccine
How is polio treated?
There is no cure for polio, although vaccines can prevent it.
Treatment can only relieve symptoms and reduce the risk of long-term problems.
Mild cases – which are the majority – often pass with pain relievers and rest.
But in more severe cases, hospitalization may need to be connected to machines to make their breathing easier and to be helped with regular stretches and exercises to prevent long-term muscle and joint problems.
In the 1920s, the iron lung — a respirator that resembled a “chest on legs” — was used to treat polio.
It was first used in that decade to rescue a child infected with the virus who needed help breathing.
Paul Alexander, 76, of Texas, is still in the machine, 70 years later, after contracting polio in 1952 at age six.
I missed a vaccination as a child, can I still get it?
Health leaders have encouraged anyone who has not been vaccinated against polio to contact their primary care physician to catch up.
However, they warned that vaccination efforts in London will initially target parents under the age of five who have not had or missed their shots, for fear it will spread in the capital.
The NHS currently offers the polio shot as part of a child’s routine vaccination schedule. The polio vaccine is part of the six-in-one vaccination, which is given to children aged eight, 12 and 16 weeks.