New York state health officials announced the first known case of polio in the United States since 2013, in Rockland County.
Health officials say medical practitioners and health care providers are now on high alert for additional cases.
The polio case may have originated from outside the US.
Polio is a hyper-contagious disease that can be spread by an infected person even if they do not show symptoms. Symptoms can widely vary, and can sometimes take up to 30 days to appear. Some polio cases can result in paralysis or death.
It’s also a largely eradicated disease. The polio vaccine is standard on the child immunization schedule. Those who are not vaccinated for it are at higher risk of contracting it.
“Individuals who are unvaccinated, including those who are pregnant, those who have not completed their polio vaccine series previously, or community members who are concerned they have might have been exposed, should get vaccinated by Rockland County – who will be hosting local vaccine clinics – or partnering health agencies and providers in the area,” a statement from New York’s health authority reads.
“Individuals who are already vaccinated but are at risk of exposure should receive a booster.”
The Department of Health strongly recommends unvaccinated individuals get vaccinated or boosted with the FDA-approved IPV polio vaccine “as soon as possible,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett.
“A viral disease that can affect the nervous system and cause muscle weakness, the polio virus typically enters the body through the mouth, usually from hands contaminated with fecal matter of an infected person. Respiratory and oral-to-oral transmission through saliva may also occur,” the statement continues.
County Executive Ed Day said many may be too young to remember polio,”but when I was growing up, this disease struck fear in families, including my own.”
“The fact that it is still around decades after the vaccine was created shows you just how relentless it is. Do the right thing for your child and the greater good of your community and have your child vaccinated now.”
Due to the success of the vaccine, which was introduced in 1955, and a national vaccination program, polio cases were cut dramatically in the late 1950s and early 1960s, with the last naturally occurring cases of polio in the U.S. in 1979. More recent polio cases were not wild strains, with the last known case in the U.S. recorded by CDC in 2013.
“Vaccines have protected our health against old and new viruses for decades,” New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan said. “The fact is, the urgency of safe and effective vaccines has always been here, and we need New Yorkers to protect themselves against completely preventable viruses like Polio.”
NYSDOH is coordinating with the Rockland County Department of Health and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to continue the case investigation, proactively respond, and protect communities against spread through urging vaccination, the agency said in a statement.
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