Polio case confirmed in Rockland County, 1st in U.S. since 2013

The New York State and Rockland County departments of health confirmed a case of polio in the county Thursday, prompting officials to advise medical practitioners and healthcare providers to be vigilant for additional cases.

As the polio vaccine continues to be included on the CDC’s 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, and therefore school-age children are vaccinated before they start school.

However, 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 have might have been exposed, should get vaccinated by Rockland County.

Health officials announced they will be hosting local vaccine clinics or partnering health agencies and providers in the area.

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 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.”

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, include fatigue, fever, headache, stiffness, muscle pain, vomiting. They 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.

In this case, sequencing performed by the Wadsworth Center and confirmed by the CDC showed revertant polio Sabin type 2 virus.

Experts say this is indicative of a transmission chain from an individual who received the oral polio vaccine (OPV), which is no longer authorized or administered in the U.S.

Only the inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) has been given in the U.S. since 2000.

Officials say this also suggests the virus may have originated in a location outside of the U.S.

“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.”

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.

“Vaccines have protected our health against old and new viruses for decades,” New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan said. “The fact is, the urgency of safe and effective vaccines has always been here, and we need New Yorkers to protect themselves against completely preventable viruses like polio.”

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. to noon.

A second clinic at the same location will be held on Monday, July 25, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

New Yorkers can pre-register for a free appointment at the Rockland County website or call 845-238-1956 to schedule. Walk-ins will also be accepted.

Vaccines are also available through local healthcare providers, including Federally Qualified Health Centers.

For more information on polio, including symptoms and spread, visit the New York State Department of Health website.

New Yorkers can learn more about the polio vaccine available at the CDC website.

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