Is Polio back in the US?

New DelhiEdited By: Sneha SwaminathanUpdated: Aug 02, 2022, 07:47 PM IST
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Polio found in New York wastewater month before confirmed case emerged

The city of New York registered its first case of Polio last month. Following which, the New York State Department of Health launched a wastewater surveillance, among other notable efforts, to look for the root cause of the virus.  According to the New York State department of Health, the results confirmed the presence of the polio virus in the wastewater samples collected from Rockland County in June. Since then, Health officials have been urging residents to get themselves vaccinated against the virus. 

The discovery of the disease from wastewater samples collected in June means the virus was present in the community even before the Rockland county adult’s diagnosis was made public on July 21. This marks the return of the virus in the US after nearly a decade.

The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in an emailed statement that the presence of the virus in wastewater indicates there may be more people in the community shedding the virus in their feces. 

However, the CDC added there have been no new cases identified, and that it is not yet clear whether the virus is actively spreading in New York or elsewhere in the United States.

Laboratory tests also confirmed the strain in the case is genetically linked to one found in Israel, although that did not mean the patient had travelled to Israel, officials added.

Reported Paralytic cases in the US. Source: Our world in data, WHO

As per reports, the patient had started exhibiting symptoms in June, when local officials asked doctors to be on the lookout for cases.

There is no cure for polio, which can cause irreversible paralysis in some cases, but it can be prevented by a vaccine made available in 1955.

Polio is often asymptomatic and people can transmit the virus even when they do not appear sick. But it can produce mild, flu-like symptoms that can take as long as 30 days to appear. 

It can affect individuals at any age, but most commonly affects children aged three and younger.

New York officials have said they are opening vaccine clinics to help unvaccinated residents get their shots. Inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) is the only polio vaccine that has been given in the United States since 2000, according to the CDC. It is given by shot in the leg or arm, depending on the patient’s age.

The polio vaccine developed by Dr Jonas Salk in the 1950s was a scientific breakthrough to tackle the global scourge. The United States has not seen a polio case in the country since 1979.

(With inputs from agencies)