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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.
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.
As Governor Hochul’s statement notes, “Routine polio vaccination rates across all ages have decreased during the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccination hesitancy has increased.” He added that “the polio vaccination rate among two-year-olds in New York City is 78.96 percent and is significantly lower than in several counties and ZIP codes.” In Rockland County, that number is just 37 percent in one county.
The intent of an emergency declaration is to mobilize state and federal resources, otherwise unavailable or insufficient, to “strengthen immunization campaigns, expand the network of polio vaccine administrators with the addition of EMS workers, midwives, and pharmacists, and allow doctors and registered nurses to write standing prescriptions for non-patient-specific polio vaccines.” It also requires health systems to track and report data to the New State Department of Health. York.
As state health commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said: “On polio, we just can’t play roulette. If you or your child are not vaccinated or up to date on immunizations, the risk of paralytic disease is real. I urge New Yorkers not to take any chances. Polio vaccination is safe and effective, protecting almost everyone who receives the recommended doses from the disease. Don’t wait to get vaccinated.”
Indeed, the resurgence of polio after more than four decades of absence sent a chill through communities across the United States, where it was widely assumed that this terrifying disease had been consigned to the history books. Since polio only causes paralysis in a small fraction of its victims, a single case of paralytic polio means there are hundreds of infected people who unknowingly pass it on to others.
But it is not just the polio outbreak that is so worrying. Considered in the context of the COVID pandemic that has killed nearly 1.1 million Americans in the past three years and debilitated millions more, and now in the midst of an unprecedented monkeypox pandemic, its significance is profound. .
This triple whammy is not just an unlucky event, but a random one. It is, in Marxist terms, a series of apparent accidents that manifest a historical necessity. Both the appearance of new pandemics and the resurgence of old ones are the product of what Leon Trotsky called “the agony of capitalism.” So is the manifest inability of the ruling class to maintain a public health infrastructure capable of dealing with such a threat, let alone three threats at once.
Infectious disease experts have issued numerous warnings about the possibility of a possible pandemic respiratory pathogen emerging long before the world has even heard of a mysterious virus that is killing residents of China’s main industrial city, Wuhan. The SARS-CoV-1 (2002-2004) and MERS (2012) epidemics were just dress rehearsals for nature.
And when the World Health Organization declared SARS-CoV-2 a public health emergency of international concern, the response of the ruling classes around the world was not to adopt the most effective health strategy to suppress the pandemic, but to take the epidemic as an opportunity to divert trillions of dollars of public funds and channel them into the coffers of the financial aristocracy.
An epidemic of monkeypox, which has infected more than 60,000 people worldwide, had been predicted for decades. The pandemic erupted in the wake of the COVID pandemic, after mitigation measures intended to contain SARS-CoV-2 were suddenly lifted, allowing the virus to emerge from isolated areas in west-central Africa where it was endemic. It made a name for itself on social media and quickly spread to more than 60 countries. And now, with schools reopening, the number of pediatric monkeypox infections has begun to rise.
If available monkeypox vaccines, along with other diagnostic and therapeutic resources, had been available to help these impoverished African countries over the past two decades, there would not have been a monkeypox pandemic.
Globalization and international trade have inevitably given these rare pathogens a vast territory to exploit. The fact that the current virus has so far been far less deadly than the historic smallpox experiment has only instilled even more apathy in federal health institutions. The outcome could have been much worse if the Congo Basin version, known as the much deadlier clade I, had been the clade that suddenly declared itself.
But three years into the COVID pandemic has brought health care facilities in the United States to the brink of collapse. Efforts are now being made to blame healthcare workers for medical errors caused by overwork and understaffing, making them scapegoats for the crisis of a healthcare system permanently undermined by the pursuit of profit. This is one of the symptoms of capitalist decomposition that affects all aspects of society.
In the case of polio, the science of the disease and the health measures to combat it are well known and proven in practice for more than 60 years. It is a measure of the decline of capitalist society that this disease can now return when it should have been eliminated, like smallpox, from the entire planet.
A reservoir of active polio infections remains in a handful of particularly poor countries, including Afghanistan and remote parts of Pakistan, as well as parts of Africa. But the real source of the danger lies in falling vaccination rates, especially in the United States, where the right-wing “anti-vaccine” campaign had a significant impact even before the current campaign to stop any COVID-19 mitigation efforts. 19.
The vulnerability of Hasidic communities in upstate New York, for example, has nothing to do with their version of Judaism. It is linked to the pernicious efforts of the ‘antivax’ to sow distrust and fear of vaccination in isolated populations, both in remote rural areas and in certain populations in more urbanized areas.
Lack of public education about vaccines, programs to teach children and youth about the history of public health and the nature of disease, funding for medical care and public health in accordance with social equality, and the lack of internationally coordinated pandemic prevention, everything works. make future pandemics inevitable despite the existence of sufficient resources and capabilities to prevent and eradicate them.
In fact, the declaration of a polio emergency is also a declaration of a total failure of public health in the United States. It is also a measure of the ruling elites’ fear that the façade they have upheld so far will crumble under their feet.
(Article published in English on September 12, 2022)