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Looking into the New York polio case from Summer of 2022


Apparently, a man in New York was left partially paralyzed by a case of polio he acquired in New York last year. Analysis of wastewater in the area showed that the virus was circulating through the community.


Polio hasn't been a huge problem for the U.S. since the 1950s when the polio vaccine was introduced. But now, polio is resurging in many parts of the world that it was considered eradicated, including New York.


Polio, also known as poliomyelitis, is a viral disease that can cause paralysis, respiratory failure, and even death. Polio was once a widespread disease in the United States, with major epidemics occurring in the first half of the 20th century. However, due to the success of polio vaccines, the disease is now rare in the US.


The development of polio vaccines in the mid-20th century was a significant breakthrough in public health. The first vaccine, developed by Dr. Jonas Salk in 1955, was an inactivated (killed) virus vaccine that was given by injection. The second vaccine, developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in 1961, was a live attenuated (weakened) virus vaccine that was given orally. These vaccines were highly effective in preventing polio, and widespread vaccination efforts helped to dramatically reduce the incidence of the disease.


In addition to vaccines, improved sanitation and hygiene practices have also contributed to the decline of polio in the US. Poliovirus is primarily spread through fecal-oral transmission, so improvements in sanitation, water treatment, and hygiene have helped to limit the spread of the virus.


Although polio is rare in the US, it still exists in some parts of the world, particularly in countries with low vaccination rates. The World Health Organization (WHO) and other international organizations continue to work towards eradicating polio globally through vaccination campaigns and other public health interventions.


So what's going on in New York? Rockland County, New York had a measles outbreak a few years ago and now this. One challenge they is that they have large, tight-knit religious communities that are vaccinated at lower rates than the general public. This is primarily Hasidic Jews but there is also a small Mennonite community in the area. In recent years the State of New York has taken away religious exemptions from vaccination for children entering its school system but that doesn't do anything for people who are now unvaccinated adults.


Sources:

Russo, Grace B., Tarini Goyal, Kenneth Tyler, and Kiran T. Thakur. "Re‐Emergence of Poliovirus in the United States: Considerations and Implications." Annals of neurology 92, no. 5 (2022): 725-728.

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