Polio’s ‘silent’ spread in New York prompts CDC to consider additional vaccinations for some people

The case was discovered in Rockland County, which has an incredibly low polio vaccination rate. Dr. José Romero, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, noted that the majority of people with polio have no symptoms and therefore can spread the virus unknowingly.

“There are a number of individuals in the community who have been infected with poliovirus. They are shedding the virus,” he said. “The spread is always a possibility because the spread is going to be silent.”

A team of CDC disease sleuths traveled from the agency’s headquarters in Atlanta to Rockland County last week, and they’re “pretty nervous” that polio “could spiral out of control very quickly and we could have a crisis in our hands,” a community health center said. leader who met the team.

“They are – what’s the opposite of cautious optimism? said another community leader, a vaccine education expert, who also met with the CDC team in Rockland County. Both leaders requested anonymity as they are not authorized to speak publicly.

Polio can cause incurable paralysis and death, but most people in the United States are protected by vaccination. Others, however, may be vulnerable to the virus for various reasons.

Around 1 million children in London have received polio boosters after the virus was detected in sewage
Unvaccinated and under-vaccinated people are vulnerable, and polio vaccination rates in Rockland County and neighboring Orange County, just north of New York, are around 60%compared to 93% nationwide, at age 2. Compromised immune people can be vulnerable even if fully immunized.
Romero said the CDC is considering various options to protect people from polio, including offering children in the area an extra shot of the vaccine, as British health authorities are currently doing. Londonor recommend additional doses for certain groups of adults.

“We are looking at all aspects of how to handle this. At this stage we don’t have a definitive answer,” he said.

A “silent killer”

The Rockland County polio case is the first identified in the United States in nearly a decade.

The virus has also been detected in waste in Rockland County and neighboring Orange County. The positive samples were genetically linked to the individual case, but no other cases in the United States have been reported.
New York adult diagnosed with polio, first US case in nearly a decade
About 3 out of 4 people infected with poliomyelitis do not have symptoms, but they are still capable of spreading the virus to others, according to the CDC. Of the others, most have symptoms such as a sore throat or a headache that could easily be overlooked or mistaken for other illnesses. Only a relatively small number, about 1 in 200 infected people, become paralyzed. Some of those who are paralyzed die because they cannot breathe.
In the late 1940s, epidemics of poliomyelitis disabled an average of more than 35,000 people per year in the United States. A vaccination campaign began in 1955 and cases quickly dropped. Today, a full series of childhood polio vaccinations — four doses between 2 months and 6 years – is at least 99% effective, according to the CDC.
But in recent decades, some small groups have not vaccinated their children against the virus. One of them is part of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in New York, particularly in Rockland County.

Much of the rest of Rockland County’s religious Jewish community has rallied behind efforts to educate “outliers” who refuse to get vaccinated, the community health chief said.

“It’s a silent killer, like carbon monoxide, and we don’t know when it will hit us,” she said.

“A press release will not be enough”

The vaccine educator said the CDC team intends to learn the best ways to communicate with members of this community, who tend not to use the internet and instead get much of their information from the WhatsApp messaging platform as well as community newspapers.

This week, Rockland County and local health care providers distributed an infographic in multiple languages, including Yiddish, which announced: “Polio spreads in Rockland County.”

The Rockland County vaccine educator said that in meetings with the CDC team, “we talked about the need for a message that resonates, and a press release isn’t going to cut it.”

Dr. Mary Leahy, CEO of Rockland County’s largest health care provider, Bon Secours Charity Health System, member of WMCHealth, has attended meetings with the CDC and said that to get people who don’t vaccinate their children against polio to understand the seriousness of the disease, “I look to grandparents and great-grandparents who lived through the era of polio in the 1940s and 1950s”.

It makes sense for Romero.

“I grew up in Mexico. I saw this disease, the complications,” he said. “I went to school with kids who had braces.”

He said many Americans don’t recognize the “devastating” effects of “lifelong paralysis” from polio.

“I think most of the American public has never seen a case of polio. People have lost that fear, if you will, of the disease.”

CNN’s Danielle Herman and John Bonifield contributed to this report.

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