Clinic facilities

Polio paralyzes resident, Rockland clinic vaccinates 18 people

ROCKLAND COUNTY, NY – Rockland health officials are holding polio vaccination clinics after learning that a local resident contracted the virus about a month ago.

This is the first US case in nearly a decade.

The resident, an unvaccinated young adult, developed paralysis, the Associated Press reported.

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It appears the patient had a vaccine-derived strain of the virus, possibly from someone who received a live vaccine — available in other countries, but not the United States — and spread it, officials said.

Anyone who hasn’t been vaccinated against polio, once the terror of families across the United States and still a global scourge, is at risk.

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Poliomyelitis is transmitted mainly from person to person or through contaminated water. It can infect a person’s spinal cord, causing paralysis and eventually permanent disability and death.

Pregnant women who are not vaccinated and anyone who has not completed their series of polio vaccines or who fears they have been exposed should get vaccinated. People already vaccinated but at risk of exposure should receive a booster, which will also be available at clinics.

Rockland County residents can pre-register for a free appointment here or call 845-238-1956 to schedule. Visits without an appointment will also be accepted.

Vaccines are also available from local health care providers, including federally licensed health centers. Anyone concerned about their immunization status is encouraged to contact their healthcare provider or the RCDOH to determine if they need a polio vaccine.

Polio was once one of the country’s most feared diseases, with annual outbreaks causing thousands of cases of paralysis. The disease mainly affects children.

Vaccines became available from 1955, and a national vaccination campaign reduced the annual number of cases in the United States to less than 100 in the 1960s and less than 10 in the 1970s, according to the Centers for Disease Control. and Prevention.

In 1979, poliomyelitis was declared eliminated in the United States, meaning there was no longer any systematic spread.

A multi-year global health campaign, assisted by volunteers and funding from Rotary International, has since halted routine spread almost everywhere, although polio is still endemic in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

However, many countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia have also reported cases in recent years.

Rarely have travelers brought polio infections to the United States. The last such case was in 2013, when a 7-month-old child who had recently moved to the United States from India was diagnosed in San Antonio, Texas, according to federal health officials. This child also had the type of polio found in the live form of the vaccine used in other countries.

In this new case, the RCDOH was alerted by the Centers for Disease Control and New York State Department of Health officials Monday evening to a case — which remains the only confirmed case.

NYSDOH and the CDC said this case of polio was transmitted by someone who had received the oral polio vaccine, which has not been given in the United States since 2000.

There are two types poliomyelitis vaccines. The United States and many other countries use injections made with an inactivated version of the virus. But some countries where polio has been a more recent threat use a weakened live virus that is given to children as drops in the mouth. In rare cases, the weakened virus can mutate into a form capable of triggering new outbreaks.

Continued circulation in settings where population vaccination rates remain low means that the weakened live virus can spread more easily to people who have not been vaccinated against polio and who come into contact with stool or respiratory secretions, such as those of a sneeze, from an infected person. These can cause illnesses, including paralysis.

Since OPV is not administered in the United States, this suggests that the virus causing the case in Rockland County may have originated from a location outside of the country where OPV is administered.

However, this does not necessarily mean that is where it was transmitted.

Up to 95% of people infected with poliomyelitis have no symptoms but can still spread the virus. The ill resident did not travel outside the country during the incubation window, officials said.

Rockland officials are conducting a risk assessment in the community.

Meanwhile, Rockland County Executive Ed Day and County Health Commissioner Dr. Patricia Schnabel Ruppert encouraged residents who are unvaccinated, who have not completed the series of vaccinations against poliomyelitis or who are at high risk of contracting polio even if they have completed the primary series to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

American children are routinely vaccinated against poliomyelitis with the inactivated vaccine. Federal authorities recommend four doses: to be given at 2 months of age; 4 months; at 6 to 18 months; and between 4 and 6 years old. Some states only require three doses.

According to the CDC’s most recent childhood immunization data, about 93 percent of 2-year-olds had received at least three doses of polio vaccine.

Those who are fully vaccinated with the 4-dose series are at very low risk.

This case should serve as a reminder to the unvaccinated, said Jennifer Nuzzo, a pandemic researcher at Brown University.

“It’s not normal. We don’t want to see that,” Nuzzo said.

Rockland has been a center of vaccine resistance in recent years. A measles outbreak in 2018-2019 infected 312 people. Last week, anti-vaxxers commenting on the county’s social media pages mocked efforts of officials encourage vaccination against poliomyelitis.

On Friday, the county’s first clinic vaccinated 18 people of varying ages. The second clinic will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. Monday at 50 Sanatorium Road (Building A) in Pomona.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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