A Rockland County resident has contracted polio, the New York State Health Department said Thursday.
The virus is a disease that ravaged the US in the 1940s and 1950s, but has become extremely rare, thanks to vaccination.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there hasn’t been a US case caused by the wild version of the virus since 1979 — and two of the three naturally occurring strains have been eradicated globally due to vaccines. The CDC said that nowadays, when cases happen here, it’s due to importation via travelers.
But a vaccine-derived strain caused by an oral version of the drug is still circulating. This rare strain popped up in the UK earlier this summer — and is now behind the Rockland case, state health officials said.
The oral polio vaccine hasn’t been used in the US since 2000. It was replaced by a vaccine where the virus is fully inactivated (dubbed IPV) and doesn’t cause this issue. Their statement said this is the first vaccine-derived case of polio in the US since 2013.
The source of the case in Rockland County is still unclear, but the state conducted genetic sequencing of the strain detected there and found that it likely originated outside of the US
“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 in a statement. “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.”
The polio vaccine is already part of the CDC’s standard child immunization schedule, and those who are already vaccinated are considered to be at lower risk. But the state health department said Rockland County will be hosting local vaccine clinics for those who’ve never had the shots, pregnant people, individuals who have not completed their vaccine series, or anyone who thinks they might have been exposed to polio.
Polio is highly contagious, and someone can spread it even if they are asymptomatic, the state Health Department said. The virus transmits person-to-person, typically through excrement but sometimes via sneezing and coughs. Symptoms can include fatigue, fever, headache, stiffness, muscle pain and vomiting and can take up to 30 days to appear. In rare cases, the disease can also result in paralysis or death.