NEW YORK - New York health officials have issued a health alert about a case of polio in Rockland County. They are advising healthcare providers to be vigilant for additional cases.
An unvaccinated young adult who lives in Rockland County, contracted the virus, the first U.S. case in nearly a decade.
Officials said the patient had developed paralysis and developed symptoms a month ago. They had not recently travel outside the country, county health officials said.
It appears the patient had a vaccine-derived strain of the virus, perhaps from someone who got a live polio vaccine — available in other countries, but not the U.S.
The person is no longer deemed contagious, but investigators are trying to figure out how the infection occurred and whether other people were exposed to the virus.
A viral disease that can affect the nervous system and cause muscle weakness, the polio virus typically enters the body through the mouth, usually from hands contaminated with fecal matter of an infected person. Respiratory and oral-to-oral transmission through saliva may also occur.
Polio is very contagious, and a person can spread the virus even if they aren't sick. Symptoms, which can be mild and flu-like (fatigue, fever, headache, stiffness, muscle pain, vomiting), can take up to 30 days to appear, during which time an infected individual can be shedding virus to others. Though rare, some polio cases can result in paralysis or death.
Testing showed the strain shows that it was likely from a transmission chain from an individual who received the oral polio vaccine (OPV), which is no longer used in the U.S. This suggests that the virus may have originated outside of the U.S.
As the polio vaccine continues to be included on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) standard child immunization schedule, those already vaccinated are considered to be at lower risk.
The polio vaccine is part of the required school immunization schedule for all children in New York.
Health officials warn that individuals who are unvaccinated, including those who are pregnant, those who have not completed their polio vaccine series previously, or community members who are concerned they might have been exposed, should get vaccinated.
Rockland County will be hosting local vaccine clinics. Individuals who are already vaccinated but are at risk of exposure should receive a booster.
"Based on what we know about this case, and polio in general, the Department of Health strongly recommends that unvaccinated individuals get vaccinated or boosted with the FDA-approved IPV polio vaccine as soon as possible," State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said."The polio vaccine is safe and effective, protecting against this potentially debilitating disease, and it has been part of the backbone of required, routine childhood immunizations recommended by health officials and public health agencies nationwide."
Due to the success of the vaccine, which was introduced in 1955, and a national vaccination program, polio cases were cut dramatically in the late 1950s and early 1960s, with the last naturally occurring cases of polio in the U.S. in 1979. More recent polio cases were not wild strains, with the last known case in the U.S. recorded by CDC in 2013.
"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," 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. Do the right thing for your child and the greater good of your community and have your child vaccinated now."
Polio vaccine clinic
Beginning on Friday, July 22, Rockland County will host a polio vaccination clinic at the Pomona Health Complex (Building A) at 50 Sanatorium Road in Pomona, New York from 10 a.m. until noon. A second clinic at the same location will be held on Monday, July 25, from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m.
Anyone who is unvaccinated – including those who are pregnant – has not completed their polio vaccine series, or are concerned they have might have been exposed, should get vaccinated at the clinics. Individuals who are already vaccinated but are at risk of exposure should receive a booster, which will also be available at the clinics.
New Yorkers can pre-register for a free appointment here or call 845-238-1956 to schedule. Walk-ins will also be accepted.
With the Associated Press.