A man in New York has become the first American to contract polio in almost a decade.
It comes weeks after the UK detected the virus, which has been dormant throughout most Western countries for years, in a sample taken from its sewer system.
The man who is said to be from Rockland County and was not vaccinated against polio as a child is no longer contagious but now suffers from paralysis as a result of the infection.
Paralysis is a common symptom of polio as it can affect the brain and nervous system. While it usually wears off over the course of a few weeks, some patients can be left with permanent disability.
For the most part, polio symptoms are generally mild and include a high temperature, tiredness, nausea and stiff muscles, but it can be lethal for children.
Officials say the man most likely contracted polio, the last known recorded case of which was in 2013, by coming into close proximity with an individual who received a vaccine containing a weakened version of the live virus.
Oral polio vaccinations which involve the patient consuming a few drops of liquid containing the virus are popular in many developing nations including India and many African countries.
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According to major scientific studies and statistics released by the World Health Organization in 2019, more people are paralyzed by the live virus in these oral vaccinations than they are from contracting wildtype polio.
New York health officials are reporting the first U.S. case of polio in nearly a decade.
— The Associated Press (@AP) July 21, 2022
As with this new case, the last known case of a US citizen contracting polio was in 2013 when a seven-month-old child in Texas became infected upon contact with individual who had received the oral vaccine containing the live virus.
In America, individuals are offered the Inactivated Poliovirus Vaccine (IPV) which does not contain the live virus. This vaccine eradicated polio from the US after a national vaccine effort in 1955.
Cases continually fell from less than 100 in the 1960s to less than 10 in the 70s. Now, isolated cases of polio are almost always caused by foreign travelers bringing the virus with them to the States.
In a village in central #Afghanistan, a child receives an oral polio #vaccine from UNICEF's Mobile Health and Nutrition Team. Routine #immunizations for children worldwide fell to their lowest levels since 2008. UNICEF is taking action #ForEveryChild: https://t.co/2WuAx1RVBT. pic.twitter.com/gaSv0TvG7G
— UNICEF USA (@UNICEFUSA) July 19, 2022
Around 93 percent of Americans are vaccinated against polio according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Rocky County health officials have encouraged those who have not received their shots to come forward and get vaccinated:
“We want shots in the arms of those who need it,” said health commissioner, Dr Patricia Schnabel Rupert.
“Vaccines have protected our health against old and new viruses for decades,” added New York City health Commissioner, Dr. Ashwin Vasan.
“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.”
Polio is currently endemic in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but isolated cases sometimes spring up across the West. Only 175 cases were reported globally in 2019 according to the WHO, although many developing nations struggle to produce accurate data.
Health officials in the UK also encouraged parents to get their kids vaccinated after samples of London sewage water flagged up the virus. Again, scientists there say the community could have been infected by “vaccine-derived” polio.