America Faces the Threat of a New Polio Outbreak

The previously eliminated poliovirus is once again penetrating America, which puts millions of kids at risk of getting paralyzed. 

New York Governor Kathy Hochul imposed a disaster emergency in the state after the discovery of poliovirus samples in the wastewater of Long Island, New York.

New Polio Sample Found in the US

In July, the United States reported its first polio case in almost a decade in Rockland County, NYC, which mobilized health authorities of New York.

Since April, New York state authorities have taken various wastewater samples in the city and found poliovirus in many different places.

Previously, the virus has been detected in Rockland, Orange, and Sullivan counties, which is a worrisome sign for state health authorities. 

This time, the poliovirus sample is found in Nassau County, Long Island. Scientists believe the sample collected from Nassau County is genetically related to Rockland’s polio case.

According to Governor Hochul, the state of New York is grappling with a disaster right now and local health authorities are unable to respond adequately. 

Now, after the disaster management emergency, New York’s midwives, EMS workers, and pharmacists are allowed to administer the polio vaccine.

Polio is considered one of those diseases that can be eliminated completely from the world.

America defeated the poliovirus just like other countries of the world. Today, polio is only present in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

This is creating speculations that the arrival of illegal immigrants from Afghanistan to the US after the US-Afghan war brought the virus to the United States.

New York Health Commissioner, Dr. Mary T Bassett, urged Americans to get their children vaccinated against poliovirus; the disease can paralyze people within a week of exposure.

Similarly, the commissioner asserted polio vaccination is 100% effective, so a vaccinated child is not vulnerable to paralysis at all.

Long-forgotten Disease Here AGAIN

For a long time, poliovirus created distress among Americans; it was considered the most dangerous disease. The virus can paralyze children to the extent they cannot even breathe without medical assistance.

While children are most vulnerable to polio disease, it can also impact adults. In 1921, former President Franklin D Roosevelt got poliovirus, which forced him to live the rest of his life in a wheelchair.

When the poliovirus was at its peak in the 1970s in the United States, the federal government started an aggressive vaccination drive, including vaccine mandates for attending schools.

In 2019, New York state lawmakers even banished religious exemptions on the polio vaccine.

However, since the disease was not so common, many people continued to ignore the vaccine mandates.

Currently, the polio vaccination rate in New York State is 79%, while health authorities are aiming to bring this rate above 90% in months to come.

Some counties of NYC have polio vaccination rates of as low as 56%, which can help the virus to grow.

This article appeared in The State Today and has been published here with permission.