Faced with increasing transmission of polio, New York declares a state of emergency for this disease

Faced with increasing transmission of polio, New York declares a state of emergency for this disease

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New York Governor Kathy Hochul said Friday that state of emergency for the entire state as the polio epidemic continues to expand. The detection of the virus that causes polio in a sewage sample from Nassau County, Long Island, early in the 2022-2023 school year appears to have been the tipping point.

According to state health officials, the polio virus was identified in 56 sewage samples from Rockland, Orange and Sullivan counties, which straddle northwestern New York along the New Jersey-Pennsylvania border, as well as as in the city itself, between May and August. . In early September we found him in Nassau.

Governor Kathy Hochul speaks on the Manhattan subway on Tuesday, April 12, 2022.[Photo by Marc A. Hermann / MTA / CC BY 4.0] [Photo by Marc A. Hermann / MTA / CC BY 4.0]

About 50 of those samples were genetically linked to the case of polio diagnosed in June in a young Jewish man in Rockland County who had never been vaccinated. The county is home to a large Hasidic (ultra-Orthodox) community whose vaccination rate is much lower than that of the general population.

The young man’s symptoms included fever, stiff neck and weakness in the legs. The virus is usually spread by contamination with virus-laden feces. In this case, the polio virus was detected in his stool.

Of concern, however, is that seven of the samples were not linked to the Rockland County case, implying that there has been much more undetected community spread than previously thought. In the case of the young man from Rockland, he was probably infected for a week to three weeks before showing symptoms. He had not traveled abroad, but had recently attended a large rally.

Polio was eliminated in the United States in 1979, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The last case of polio, in 2013, involved a person who contracted the disease while traveling abroad. The current outbreak was caused by a vaccine-derived poliovirus, meaning that a person who had been vaccinated with an attenuated oral poliovirus vaccine (the Sabin vaccine) shed the virus, leading to community spread.

In the United States, the polio vaccine is given by injection with an inactivated polio vaccine (the Salk vaccine). Because it does not contain live virus, there is no chance that vaccinated people will shed the virus. In contrast, the oral polio vaccine, which was a critical factor in eradicating wild poliovirus worldwide, induces immunity using a weakened live virus that is not dangerous under normal circumstances.

But some people with immunocompromised disorders, vaccinated with oral polio vaccine, can eventually shed live attenuated virus and cause outbreaks in places with low vaccination coverage. This is precisely the concern raised by health officials in New York.

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