America’s first polio in nearly a decade was infected with the same strain of the virus spotted in Jerusalem and London earlier this year, researchers say.
Tests revealed that the Orthodox Jewish man in his twenties and from Rockland County, New York — who was paralyzed by the disease — had contracted the type 2 vaccine-derived polio virus (VDPV), like the virus found in wastewater in the other countries.
It suggests that there may be “multiple” transmission chains of the virus circulating worldwide, polio expert Dr Adam Ratner told DailyMail.com.
Today, the New York City Department of Health confirmed that the virus had been detected in wastewater samples taken in Rockland County in early June.
Health officials said this was a warning sign for anyone who has not been vaccinated against polio, once the most feared disease in America, to do so. Polio is more dangerous in children.
Tests showed the patient was infected with the same strain detected in London and Jerusalem earlier this year (file photo)
Tests in Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) labs revealed that the New York patient had contracted the same strain identified this year.
Some countries — but not the US — still use an oral poliovirus vaccine. It uses a live form of the virus that, in rare cases, can be passed on to others when the recipient sheds it. During various infections, it can then mutate to become like the more dangerous ancestral strains.
GPEI officials said more analysis was underway to determine where else in the world the virus may have spread.
They said: “It is vital that all countries, especially those with extensive travel and contact with polio-affected countries and areas, strengthen surveillance to quickly detect new virus entry and enable a rapid response.”
The US polio patient revealed last month is a young Orthodox Jewish man who had not received the three-dose polio vaccine, reports suggest.
He has since been released from hospital to a house he shares with his wife and parents. But paralysis from the infection has made it difficult for him to walk again.
It was not clear how he contracted the virus, but the man has not traveled abroad recently, suggesting he probably picked it up from another unvaccinated person.
Ratner, who is also director of pediatric infectious diseases at NYU Langone’s Hassenfel Children’s Hospital, warned that based on the overseas detections, “It’s possible that each of these one chain was true.” [infection] happened. But it’s also possible that there are several independent vaccine-derived polio in the area.
“Although that’s unlikely in the US because we don’t use the oral polio vaccine.”
Neither London nor Jerusalem have so far confirmed that a polio has been admitted to their hospitals. The US has not yet discovered a second case.
But all three say they’ve detected type 2 VDPV in their wastewater in the last few months, suggesting it’s spreading in the community.
In Rockland County, the virus was discovered in early June — before the first case was reported.
But Ratner said this was “not surprising” because it can take weeks for someone with the virus to start showing symptoms.
He added: “I think it suggests that a lot more people have been exposed to polio.
“Maybe there are some unvaccinated individuals who have come into contact with it but have not developed paralytic polio.”
Polio is a viral infection that in severe cases can spread to the spinal cord and cause paralysis. About one in ten people who suffer from this die from the disease.
Most people who contract polio show no symptoms of the virus, but one in four will develop flu-like symptoms, including sore throat, fever and stomach pain.
One in 25 will see their spinal cord infected, leading to paralysis.
Vaccination is the most effective way to prevent the disease because there are no effective treatments for people who get it.
Children in the United States are routinely offered a three-dose vaccination course, with the first injection given at two months and the last at 18 months of age.
They also receive a booster shot between the ages of four and six, which is more than 99 percent effective at preventing infection.
In recent years and amid the Covid disruption, the US has fallen behind in vaccinating against the disease.
CDC data showed that about 92.6 percent of Americans were fully vaccinated against the virus by their second birthday, which is below the WHO’s recommended level of 95 percent to prevent an outbreak.
Thanks to the vaccination campaign, polio has been eradicated in almost every country in the world. But it is still spreading under the radar in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Polio: Once America’s Most Feared Disease, Now a Rarity
Polio is a serious viral infection that used to be common around the world.
The virus lives in the throat and gut for up to six weeks, with patients being most contagious from seven to 10 days before and after the onset of symptoms.
But it can spread to the spinal cord and cause muscle weakness and paralysis.
The virus is more common in infants and young children and occurs under poor hygiene.
How deadly is it?
Most people show no signs of infection at all, but about one in 20 people have minor symptoms such as fever, muscle weakness, headache, nausea and vomiting.
About one in 50 patients develops severe muscle pain and stiffness in the neck and back.
Less than one percent of polio cases lead to paralysis and one in ten of those leads to death.
Of those who develop symptoms, they usually appear three to 21 days after infection and include:
- High temperature
- Sore throat
- Stomach ache
- sore muscles
- Nausea and vomiting
How does it spread?
People can contract polio from airborne droplets when someone coughs or sneezes, or when they come into contact with the feces of an infected person.
This includes food, water, clothing or toys.
Are there different tribes?
There are three types of “wild” polio, which have been largely eradicated in Europe, the Americas, Southeast Asia, and the Western Pacific.
Types 2 and 3 were eliminated thanks to a global mass vaccine campaign, with the latest cases being discovered in 1999 and 2012, respectively.
The remaining, type 1, wild polio remains endemic in only two countries, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Wild polio has been eradicated in almost every country in the world thanks to vaccines.
But the global rollout has spawned new types of strains known as vaccine-derived polioviruses.
These are strains that were initially used in live vaccines, but made their way into the community and evolved to behave more like the wild version.
Does Polio Still Exist in the US?
The last case of person-to-person transmission in the US was in 1979, which was also the last case of wild polio.
But since then, there have been several dozen cases of vaccine-derived polioviruses, albeit one-off, with no further transmission.
Am I vaccinated against polio?
Americans have been offered the inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) since 2000.
It is given as four doses, with the first shot at two months of age. It is also administered at ages four, six to 18 months, and four to six years.
Take-up has fallen slightly, but remains above 90 percent nationally.
There are concerns that vaccine hesitancy has increased during the Covid crisis due to the spread of misinformation about shots for that virus and school closures.