New York Confirms First U.S. Polio Case in Nearly a Decade (UPDATE)

Officials say the infected individual was unvaccinated, and possibly contracted the disease from someone who received the oral polio vaccine.

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UPDATED 8/12, 3:10 p.m. ET: Poliovirus has been detected in NYC’s wastewater.

The New York State Department of Health and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene confirmed the finding Friday, weeks after a Rockland County man tested positive for paralytic polio. Health officials say presence of polio suggests likely local circulation of the virus, and are now urging the public to get fully vaccinated if they’ve yet to do so.

“For every one case of paralytic polio identified, hundreds more may be undetected,” State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said in a statement. “The detection of poliovirus in wastewater samples in New York City is alarming, but not surprising. Already, the State Health Department — working with local and federal partners – is responding urgently, continuing case investigation and aggressively assessing spread. The best way to keep adults and children polio-free is through safe and effective immunization – New Yorkers’ greatest protection against the worst outcomes of polio, including permanent paralysis and even death.”

Officials say most adults won’t require the vaccine as they had already received it as children. But for those who were immunized after age 4, or are unsure about their vaccination status, are urged to received a total of three doses. If an adult has received any fewer, they are advised to get the remaining doses. Children, on the other hand, should get four doses, “with the first dose given at 6 weeks through 2 months of age, followed by one dose given at 4 months of age, 6 through 18 months old, and 4 through 6 years old.”

See original story below.

Health officials say a New York man has tested positive for polio, marking the first known U.S. infection in nearly a decade.

The New York State Department of Health say the unnamed patient was unvaccinated and may have contracted the disease from someone who received the oral polio vaccine. According to the New York Times, the OPV contains a weakened poliovirus that produces an immune response. Although it’s still used in other countries, the oral vaccine has not been administered in the U.S. since 2000, as the live virus in the OPV can be shed through those who receive it. The country now exclusively uses an inactivated polio vaccine that is administered as a jab; it contains a non-replicating virus, which means recipients cannot spread the disease to others.

These facts have lead experts to believe the virus may have originated outside the U.S. Officials have not publicly identified the patient, but are trying to determine how he may have contracted polio.

“I want to stress that this individual is no longer contagious,” Ed Day, the Rockland County executive, said in a Thursday news conference. “Our efforts now are focused on two issues: vaccinations and figuring out if anyone else has been impacted by this disease.”

The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention say it’s been more than 40 years since polio cases originated in the U.S. The country’s last confirmed case was in 2013, when it was detected in an infant whose family had moved to Texas from India. 

Officials are now urging the public to receive the polio vaccine if they or their children have yet to do so.

“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 in a press release.”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.”

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