What to know about polio and the first US case in nearly 10 years | Health info

Health authorities say the case may have originated outside the United States.

The first case of polio in the United States in nearly 10 years has been identified in New York State in an unvaccinated young man.

The New York State Department of Health said in a statement Thursday that the case in Rockland County may have originated outside the United States.

The person is no longer considered contagious, but investigators are trying to figure out how the infection occurred and if others were exposed. Officials also told health care providers to look for other cases and urged people in the area who are unvaccinated to get vaccinated.

According to a report by The Washington Post newspaper, the patient has been released and is living at his parents’ home with his wife. He can stand but has difficulty walking.

Here’s what you need to know about the disease.

What is polio?

  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), poliomyelitis is a debilitating and potentially fatal disease caused by the poliovirus.
  • The virus is transmitted from person to person and is highly contagious. A severe case of poliomyelitis involves nerve damage that can lead to paralysis, breathing difficulties and even death.
  • Spread can occur through the faecal-oral route or through contaminated water or food.
  • According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the virus enters the body through the mouth and multiplies in the intestine.
  • The disease mainly affects children under the age of five.

What are the symptoms?

  • According to the WHO, up to 90% of people infected will show no or mild symptoms, and the disease often goes unnoticed.
  • For others, early symptoms may include fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, and pain in the limbs.
  • These symptoms can last two to five days and then disappear.
  • However, a smaller proportion of infected people may develop symptoms that can affect the brain and spinal cord.
  • According to the WHO, paralysis can occur a few hours after infection. Among paralyzed people, 5-10% die when they are unable to move their respiratory muscles.

Can poliomyelitis be cured?

  • The WHO says there is no cure for polio but it can be prevented with vaccines.
  • Treatments for poliomyelitis aim to limit and relieve symptoms. Physiotherapy can help stimulate the muscles, while medication can also help them relax. These treatments might improve mobility but cannot reverse the permanent paralysis caused by poliomyelitis.
  • However, two vaccines are available: oral polio and inactivated polio. Vaccinations against the disease mean it is rare in most parts of the world.

How long does the vaccine protection last?

  • The CDC says it’s unclear how long people who received the vaccine will be immune, but they “are most likely protected for many years after a full course of [vaccines]”.

Hasn’t poliomyelitis been eradicated in the United States and elsewhere?

  • Since 1979, no cases of poliomyelitis have appeared in the United States. However, the virus was brought into the country by travellers.
  • According to US authorities, the most recent polio cases in the country were not wild strains; the last known recorded by the CDC dates back to 2013.
  • The United States experienced a polio epidemic in the 1940s, which disabled more than 35,000 people each year, according to the CDC.
  • The WHO says that of the three strains of poliovirus, type two was eradicated in 1999, and no type three cases have been found since a reported case in Nigeria in 2012. As of 2020, type one only affects two countries: Pakistan and Afghanistan. .
  • Globally, cases have fallen by 99% since 1988, when polio was endemic, and 350,000 cases have been recorded worldwide. In 2021, there were six reported cases, according to the WHO.

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