US Reports First Polio Case After Almost A Decade

Health officials have confirmed that an unvaccinated suburbian individual from New York City is the country’s first polio case after almost a decade.

As the first case of polio since 2013, the case was reported in Beth Cefalu of Rockland County, about 36 miles north of New York City.

While the state and county health departments said the patient is no longer considered dangerous, she has developed polio paralysis, which is irreversible. Tests ran by the state health department’s lab also showed that the patient previously received an oral vaccine for polio — one that’s no longer administered in the U.S.

In a recent statement, the state department suggested that the case of the highly contagious virus may have originated from outside of the country.

“We are monitoring the situation closely and working with the New York State Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to respond to this emergent public health issue to protect the health and wellbeing of county residents,” Rockland County Health Commissioner Patricia Schnabel Ruppert said.

Officials have since encouraged healthcare providers to watch out for possibly more cases. They also urged people in the area not yet vaccinated to get the vaccine as soon as possible.

Per polio experts, the area where the case was detected holds concern since it used to be the epicenter of a large measles outbreak in 2018-2019 fueled by low vaccination rates among communities of Hasidic Jews. As the nation’s worst measles epidemic in 27 years, the outbreak affected 312 people, nearly losing the country’s measles-free status.

“I think it’s concerning because … it can spread. If there are unvaccinated communities, it can cause a polio outbreak,” said Walter Orenstein, a polio expert at Emory University.

“The inactivated polio vaccine we have is very effective and very safe and could have prevented this. We need to restore our confidence in vaccines.”

The CDC said that while the risk is low for unvaccinated people, getting the recommended three doses of injectable polio vaccine is encouraged.

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