US has first polio case in nearly a decade
A 20-year-old New York man has become the first US polio victim in nine years after apparently contracting a vaccine-derived strain of the virus. This has set off yet another health scare as America continues to battle the Covid-19 pandemic and a monkeypox outbreak.
The unidentified man lives in Rockland County, near New York City, and has developed some paralysis, state and county health officials said on Thursday. He first suffered symptoms of the virus about a month ago, and given that he hadn’t traveled outside the US recently, state officials reportedly suspect that he was exposed to a person who had received a live polio vaccine overseas.
The US eradicated polio in 1979 and hadn’t reported a new case originating within the country since then. Over the past four decades, new infections have been reported only in people who brought the virus from overseas, such as a seven-month-old child who tested positive after moving to Texas from India in 2013.
As turned out to be the case with that child, the New York man could have a vaccine-derived strain of polio. The US uses jabs with an inactivated version of the virus, but some countries rely on orally administered inoculation droplets with live polio in a weakened form. In some cases, those live viruses can cause new outbreaks.
The polio vaccine debuted in the US in 1955 and dramatically reduced cases of a virus that paralyzed thousands of Americans annually. “Many of you may be too young to remember polio, but when I was growing up, this disease struck fear in families, including my own,” Rockland County executive Ed Day said. “The fact that it is still around decades after the vaccine was created shows you just how relentless it is.”
County and state officials have urged residents who aren’t vaccinated against polio to get their jabs. Rockland County has two polio vaccination clinics set up. Around 93% of Americans receive at least three doses of the vaccine by the time they are toddlers. “New Yorkers should know that those already vaccinated are at lower risk,” the state health department said.
Rockland County has been called “an epicenter for anti-vaccination fear,” at least partly because of resistance to inoculations in its large Orthodox Jewish population. A measles outbreak in the county in 2019 led to a countywide ban on unvaccinated children in public places.
The new US polio case was announced just one month after UK health officials warned that traces of the polio virus had been found in London’s sewage. A vaccine-derived strain of the virus was identified in sewage samples several times between February and May. The UK Health Security Agency said the virus was likely brought to London by a traveler from abroad.