NY polio patient may have caught infection from strain found in Rockland County sewage water

The patient was infected with the same strain of the virus discovered earlier this year in Jerusalem and London, say researchers


                            NY polio patient may have caught infection from strain found in Rockland County sewage water
(Representational image/Roger Harris/Science Photo Library/Getty Images)
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According to researchers, America's first polio patient in nearly a decade was infected with the same strain of the virus that was discovered earlier this year in Jerusalem and London. Testing revealed that the Jewish man in his twenties from Rockland County, New York, who was paralyzed by the disease, had caught type 2 vaccine-derived poliovirus (VDPV), similar to that found in wastewater in other countries.

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It suggests that the virus may have 'multiple' transmission chains circulating globally where it was thought to be erased, polio expert Dr Adam Ratner told DailyMail. The virus was found in wastewater samples taken in Rockland County in early June, according to the New York City Department of Health.

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According to health officials, this is a warning sign for anyone who has not been vaccinated against polio, which was once the most feared disease in America. Polio is especially dangerous in children. Testing at Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) labs revealed that the New York patient had contracted the same strain discovered this year.

Some countries, but not the United States, continue to use an oral poliovirus vaccine. This method employs a live virus that, in rare cases, can be passed on to others when recipients excrete it. After several infections, it may mutate into the more dangerous ancestral strains.
GPEI officials stated that additional research was being conducted to determine where the virus may have spread in the world.

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''It is critical that all countries, particularly those with a high volume of travel and contact with polio-affected countries and areas, strengthen surveillance to detect any new virus importation and facilitate a rapid response,'' they said. According to reports, the American polio patient revealed last month is a young Jewish man who did not receive the three-dose polio vaccine.

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He has since been released from the hospital and moved into the home he shares with his wife and parents. However, the infection's paralysis has left him unable to walk. It was unclear how he contracted the virus, but the man had not recently traveled abroad, implying he contracted it from another unvaccinated person.

Health workers and volunteers put up polio vaccination streamers, during a mass vaccination campaign to combat the resurgence of the polio virus, at a slum area on October 14, 2019 in Manila, Philippines. The Philippines is aiming to vaccinate over 9 million children after the country's health department announced an outbreak of polio, 19 years after the World Health Organization declared the country free of the infectious disease. Health Secretary Francisco Duque has blamed poor immunization coverage and lack of proper sanitation and hygiene as the cause of the resurgence of the disease. The Philippines has been struggling to regain the publics trust in vaccines since 2017, when it was discovered that a dengue vaccine manufactured by French firm Sanofi could cause health risks to people who had not previously had the disease. Recently, the country declared a dengue epidemic after hundreds have died of the mosquito-borne disease.
Health workers and volunteers put up polio vaccination streamers, during a mass vaccination campaign to combat the resurgence of the polio virus (Photo by Ezra Acayan/Getty Images)

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Ratner, who also serves as the director of pediatric infectious diseases at NYU Langone's Hassenfel Children's Hospital, cautioned that based on the detections abroad, "It is possible that each of those was one chain where [infection] happened. But it is also possible that there is multiple independent vaccine-derived polio around. Although, in the US this is unlikely because we don't use the oral polio vaccine".

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So far, neither London nor Jerusalem has confirmed the admission of a polio patient. The United States has yet to discover a second case. However, all three claim to have detected type 2 VDPV in their wastewater in the last few months, implying that it is spreading throughout the community. The virus was discovered in Rockland County in early June before the first case was reported. However, Ratner stated that this was "not surprising" because it can take weeks for someone infected with the virus to develop symptoms. "I think it suggests that many more people may have been exposed to polio," he added.

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Poliovirus and its symptoms

Polio is a viral infection that, in severe cases, can spread to the spinal cord and cause paralysis. One in every ten people who suffer from this disease dies. Most people who contract polio show no signs of the virus, but one in every four will develop flu-like symptoms such as a sore throat, fever, and stomach pain.

One in every twenty-five people will have their spinal cord infected, resulting in paralysis. Because there are no effective treatments for people who contract the disease, vaccination is the most effective way to avoid it. In the United States, children are routinely offered a three-dose vaccination course, with the first jab given at two months and the last at 18 months.

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They are also given a booster shot between the ages of four and six, which is more than 99 percent effective at preventing infection. In recent years, and in the midst of Covid disruption, the United States has fallen behind in disease vaccination.

According to CDC data, approximately 92.6 percent of Americans are fully immunized against the virus by their second birthday, which is less than the WHO recommended level of 95 percent to prevent an outbreak. Polio has been eradicated in almost every country on the planet as a result of the vaccination campaign. However, it continues to spread under the radar in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

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