The health authorities of the US state of New York have detected the dangerous polio virus in sewage. The samples are from Rockland County this June – ahead of the announcement of the first confirmed case of polio in the US in almost a decade. According to the August 1 announcement, this finding underscores the vital importance of vaccination to protect all New York residents against the deadly disease.
The state health commissioner, Dr. Mary T. Bassett is quoted in the statement as saying:
“Poliomyelitis is a dangerous disease with potentially devastating consequences. Fortunately, in the United States, we have the vital protection provided by the polio vaccine, which has protected our country and New Yorkers for over 60 years.”
Given the speed at which the pathogen can spread, Bassett said it’s time for adults and minors to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
According to the authorities, the vaccination is particularly necessary for unvaccinated people, including children over the age of two, and pregnant women. Residents, employees and students in Rockland County are at the highest risk of infection. The risk area currently has a polio vaccination rate of 60.5 percent among two-year-olds, compared to the national average of 79.1 percent.
In late July, New York City health officials reported the first case of polio in the United States in nearly a decade. An unvaccinated resident of the state is ill. An initial sequencing indicates that the transmission came from a person vaccinated with the oral polio vaccine. Since this is no longer approved in the USA, the virus may have come from somewhere outside the country.
No other cases of the disease have been discovered so far. In a comment for the agency Reuters the New York health authority announced that it had not yet been possible to determine with certainty whether the virus discovered in the sewage samples was identical to the pathogen in the samples from the infected person.
In poliomyelitis, a distinction is made between wild types and vaccine-derived viruses. So far this year, wild polioviruses have only emerged in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Mozambique, according to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. However, polio cases in several countries can be caused by viruses from live vaccines. In the USA and also in Germany only inactive polio vaccine is used.
The disease has been eradicated in the United States since 1979. The last known case of confirmed vaccine polio was in 2013 in a baby who had a very weak immune system. The poliovirus can cause paralysis and death in humans. It can cause permanent paralysis, especially in small children. The highly contagious virus is often spread through contaminated water. So far there is no cure.
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