Thanks to massive vaccination campaigns around the world, polio cases dropped by 99% since the late 1980s.
Now, evidence of polio outbreaks is showing up in wastewater in the United States with its first case of paralytic polio in decades in an unvaccinated individual from Rockland County, New York in July 2022.
On Friday September 9th, 2022, New York Governor Kathy Hochul declared a state of emergency after poliovirus was detected in the sewage of another county in the state. While no additional polio cases have been found, this action helps the state expand vaccination efforts and surveillance.
What does this mean?
Detecting poliovirus in the wastewater indicates persons in the area are shedding live poliovirus and are potentially contagious to those who have not developed immunity to polio, i.e., the unvaccinated or inadequately vaccinated. Virus in wastewater can occur weeks before cases of paralytic polio appear in the community.
How does polio spread?
· Polio is very contagious; a person can spread the virus even if they are not sick or experiencing symptoms (which can take up to 30 days to appear).
· The virus enters the body through the mouth, usually from hands contaminated with the stool of an infected person.
· Respiratory and oral-to-oral transmission through saliva may also occur.
What are the symptoms?
There are a range of symptoms people infected with polio may experience, from having no symptoms, to mild and flu-like symptoms, to serious symptoms, including paralysis, permanent disability, or post-polio syndrome, and even death.
There is no cure or treatment for polio and available vaccines are safe and effective. The inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) injection used in the U.S since 2000 does not contain the live virus. Two doses of inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) are 90% effective or more against paralytic polio; three doses are 99% to 100% effective. The original live vaccine, given orally, is still used in some countries.
In communities with lower vaccination rates, polio can spread even more easily. That is why it is so important everyone 2 months and older get vaccinated against polio as soon as possible. This includes adults who are unvaccinated, immune compromised, are incompletely vaccinated, or who are at greater risk for exposure to polioviruses, including international travelers, those exposed to wastewater at their job, laboratory workers, and healthcare professionals.
Check your state’s Department of Health website for more information on vaccine availability. If you are showing symptoms, we can connect you to your healthcare provider or refer you to a primary care physician. Contact our Health Navigation Center at 844.258.1820