After suffering paralysis a month ago, an adult resident of suburban New York City was diagnosed with polio, state and local health authorities announced on Thursday, marking the nation’s first verified incidence of the illness in over ten years.
The extremely infectious and long-feared virus may have originated outside of the United States, according to testing, according to the New York State Health Department.
“We are now surveying the family and close contacts of this individual to assess risks to the community,” Dr. Patricia Schnabel Ruppert, Rockland County health commissioner, said during a press conference, emphasizing that the patient was no longer infectious.
According to Ruppert, the subject, named simply as a young adult by health authorities – Rockland County Executive Ed Day referred to the person using male pronouns – was unvaccinated.
According to her, state health specialists determined that the instance was caused by a type of weakened virus used in oral polio vaccinations used abroad, which may occasionally cause illness and have been stopped in the United States since 2000.
In the United States, three shots of an inactive polio vaccine offer approximately 100 percent protection.
Ruppert said the specifics of how or where the afflicted Rockland County citizen was exposed are still being investigated, and that the individual did not get an oral vaccination.
According to the New York Times, the individual was a member of the Orthodox Jewish community, which was at the core of a 2018-2019 measles epidemic blamed on poor vaccination rates among the ultra-Orthodox.
The Centers for Illness Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States, which verified the polio diagnosis, said that no instances of the disease had arisen in the country since 1979.
According to the CDC, a naturally existing, or “wild,” virus may also be introduced into the nation by an infected traveler, as happened most recently in 1993. The last reported polio infection in the United States was linked to an oral vaccination in 2013, according to the CDC.
Polio is mostly asymptomatic, but it may cause flu-like symptoms such as a sore throat, fever, exhaustion, and nausea, according to the CDC. The virus may infiltrate the neurological system and cause permanent paralysis in a tiny proportion of individuals.
Ruppert told reporters that the Rockland County patient was identified after feeling weakness and paralysis approximately a month ago. She refused to reveal the person’s present status or prognosis, or to indicate if the paralysis would be permanent.
Although there is no treatment for polio, infection may be avoided with vaccine, and there has been a remarkable decline in incidence globally in recent decades as a result of intensive national and regional immunization efforts for newborns and children.
As a consequence of the Rockland County instance, local health authorities planned to launch immunization clinics, pushing everyone who had not yet been immunized to do so.
Polio was formerly one of the most dreaded illnesses in the United States, with outbreaks crippling over 35,000 Americans each year in the late 1940s. In 1955, the first polio vaccine became available.