On Thursday, New York health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the nation’s first case of polio in nearly a decade.
A person from Rockland County, New York, has been diagnosed with polio. The unvaccinated young adult began experiencing weakness and paralysis about a month ago, county Health Commissioner Dr. Patricia Schnabel Ruppert said Thursday.
The person is no longer deemed contagious, but investigators are trying to figure out how the infection occurred and whether other people may have been exposed to the virus.
The case comes nearly a month after the UK Health Security Agency warned that it had detected poliovirus in its surveillance of London sewage samples, indicating that there had been some spread between closely linked individuals in North and East London, although no cases had been identified there.
Here’s what the officials wrote in a statement Thursday:
“The New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) and the Rockland County Department of Health today alerted the public to a case of polio in a Rockland County resident. State and County health officials are advising medical practitioners and healthcare providers to be vigilant for additional cases.”
Most Americans are vaccinated against polio, but unvaccinated people may be at risk, said Dr. Ruppert. Health officials scheduled vaccination clinics nearby for Friday and Monday and encouraged anyone who has not been vaccinated to get the shots.
“We want shots in the arms of those who need it,” she said at a Thursday press conference announcing the case.
Polio was once one of the nation’s most feared diseases, with annual outbreaks causing thousands of cases of paralysis—many of them in children.
New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said in a statement:
“Based on what we know about this case, and polio in general, the Department of Health strongly recommends that unvaccinated individuals get vaccinated or boosted with the FDA-approved IPV polio vaccine as soon as possible. The polio vaccine is safe and effective, protecting against this potentially debilitating disease, and it has been part of the backbone of required, routine childhood immunizations recommended by health officials and public health agencies nationwide.”
‘The Daily Wire’ report explained the polio virus further:
The statement notes that the polio virus typically spreads orally, usually through contact with fecal matter from an infected person, or hands contaminated by fecal matter. The disease can also spread through mouth-to-mouth contact or saliva. The disease itself, called poliomyelitis, attacks the nervous system. Symptoms can be mild and flu-like, including fatigue, muscle pain, muscle weakness, fever, and stiffness. In rare cases, it can also cause paralysis and even death. Symptoms do not typically appear for up to 30 days, during which time an infected person can still transmit the disease to others.
The disease became extremely rare with the advent of the polio vaccine. The vaccine was introduced in 1955, and a national vaccination program was conducted in the 1950s and 60s. The last naturally occurring case in the United States occurred in 1979, the statement noted. The last known case was recorded by the CDC in 2013. According to the World Health Organization, there were six cases of polio in three countries in 2021, and there have been just three cases between January and May of this year.