New York has confirmed a case of polio in the Hudson Valley region, the first to arrive in the United States in about a decade.
The Rockland County case confirmed by New York state health officials involved a young adult who began experiencing weakness and paralysis about a month ago, as CNN reported Thursday. .
Although no cases of polio have appeared in the United States since 1979, the virus was brought into the country by travelers with polio – some of whom may be asymptomatic but spread the virus.
So how concerned should the general public in New Jersey be?
Not very, if they followed CDC guidelines for vaccinations.
There is no cure for poliomyelitis. The poliomyelitis vaccine is the only protection against the virus.
Before vaccines became available, polio was once one of the most feared diseases in the United States. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, polio epidemics caused more than 15,000 cases of paralysis each year, according to the CDC.
Inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) is the only form of vaccine given in the United States for more than 20 years – by injection in the leg or arm, depending on the age of the patient.
The oral polio vaccine (OPV) is still used in other countries, even after being discontinued in the United States since 2000.
Vaccine-derived poliovirus (VDPV) is a strain of the weakened virus originally included in the oral vaccine – which in some cases changes over time and behaves more like the natural virus.
This means it can spread more easily to people who have not been vaccinated against polio and who come into contact with respiratory secretions, such as a sneeze or feces from an infected person, including through contaminated sewage.
Cases of oral vaccine-associated paralytic poliomyelitis (VAPP) have been recorded this year in other countries, including London, UK, in June and Israel in April.
In 2013, an infant who received the oral vaccine in India and was severely immunocompromised developed polio and died in the United States, according to the CDC.
According to federal health officials, between 2 and 10 in every 100 people paralyzed by polio die because the virus affects the muscles that help them breathe.
Even children who appear to make a full recovery may develop new muscle pain, weakness or paralysis as adults 15 to 40 years later, known as post-polio syndrome.
School-aged children and the risk of poliomyelitis
The polio vaccine continues to be included in the standard CDC childhood immunization schedule and is also part of the mandatory school immunization schedule for all children.
This means that school-aged children are vaccinated before starting school in this country, unless guardians avoid the requirement, such as with medical exemptions.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that approximately 1 dose in a million polio vaccine causes an allergic reaction.
In the United States, children are advised — and required to attend school — to receive four total doses of inactivated polio vaccine (IPV), with one dose at each of the following ages:
– 2 months
– 4 months
— 6 to 18 months
— 4 to 6 years
Adults and the risk of poliomyelitis
Most adults do not need the polio vaccine because they were already vaccinated as children, although the following groups of adults are at higher risk:
— Health workers treating patients who may have poliomyelitis or who have close contact with someone who may be infected with poliovirus.
— Adults traveling to a country where the risk of contracting poliomyelitis is higher.
— Adults working in a laboratory and handling specimens that may contain poliomyelitis virus
According to the CDC, adults who are at increased risk of polio exposure and who have already completed a series of routine polio vaccinations can receive a lifetime booster dose.
Erin Vogt is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach her at [email protected]
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