'Silent' New York Polio Outbreak prompts CDC to consider additional vaccines for some

‘Silent’ New York Polio Outbreak prompts CDC to consider additional vaccines for some

The case was found in Rockland County, which has the lowest polio vaccination rate. Director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, Dr. José Romero noted that most people infected with polio do not have symptoms, so the virus can be transmitted without knowing it.

“There are many people in the community who are infected with the polio virus. They are spreading the virus,” he said. “Diffusion is always possible because diffusion is silent.”

A CDC disease investigation team traveled from the agency’s Atlanta headquarters to Rockland County last week, and they are “extremely nervous” that polio “could spiral out of control very quickly and have a crisis on our hands,” according to with a public health agency. The leader met the team.

“They – what is the opposite of cautious faith?” Another community leader specializing in vaccine education said she met with CDC staff in Rockland County. Both leaders requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

Polio can cause incurable paralysis and death, but most people in the US are protected, thanks to vaccination. However, others can become infected with the virus for various reasons.

The unvaccinated and undervaccinated are vulnerable, and Rockland and Orange counties, north of New York City, have polio vaccination rates of about 60% compared to 93% nationally, up to 2 years. Immunocompromised People can be infected even if they are fully vaccinated.
Romero said the CDC is considering different options to protect people from polio, including providing additional vaccinations for children in the area, as UK health officials are now doing. London or prescribing additional doses for certain groups of adults.

“We are looking at all aspects of how to deal with this. At this point, we don’t have a definitive answer,” he said.

A ‘silent killer’

The Rockland County polio case is the first to be identified in the United States in nearly a decade.

The virus has also been detected in Sewers in Rockland County and neighboring Orange County. Positive samples were genetically linked to the individual case, but no other cases were reported in the United States.
A New York adult has been diagnosed with polio, the first US case in nearly a decade
3 out of 4 polio victims have no symptoms, but they are still able to spread the virus to others, according to the CDC. Of the rest, most have symptoms such as a sore throat or headache that can be easily ignored or confused with other illnesses. A relatively small number are paralyzed, with only 1 in 200 affected. Some people with rheumatoid arthritis die from respiratory failure.
In the late 1940s, polio spread to people with disabilities over 35,000 people a year on average in the United States. A vaccination campaign began in 1955, and cases quickly declined. Today, a full round of childhood polio vaccines — four sizes 2 months to 6 years — is at least 99% effective, according to the CDC.
But in recent decades, some small groups have not vaccinated their children against the virus. One is within New York’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, including Rockland County.

Rockland County’s largely religious Jewish community has joined forces to educate “foreigners” who refuse to vaccinate, a community health leader said.

“It’s a silent killer like carbon monoxide, we never know when it’s going to hit us,” he said.

‘The press will not cut’

The vaccine educator said CDC staff are eager to learn better ways to communicate with members of this community, who do not use the Internet and instead get a lot of information from the WhatsApp messaging site and community newspapers.

This week, Rockland County and local health care providers distributed a flyer in multiple languages, including Yiddish, that announced: “Polio is rampant in Rockland County.”

A vaccine educator in Rockland County said in meetings with CDC staff, “We talked about the need for resounding messages, and a press release wouldn’t be enough.”

CEO of Bon Secours Charity Health System, Rockland County’s largest healthcare provider, WMCHealth member Dr. Mary Leahy attended meetings with the CDC and asked them to understand those who have not vaccinated their children against polio. “I go back to my grandparents and great-grandparents who really lived through the polio days in the 40s and 50s,” he said of the severity of the disease.

Romero understands this.

“I grew up in Mexico. I saw this illness, the complications,” he said. “I went to school with kids who wore braces.”

Many Americans do not recognize the “devastating” consequences of polio’s “lifetime paralysis,” he said.

“I think the majority of the American people have never seen polio. People have lost that fear, so to speak, of the disease.”

CNN’s Daniel Herrmann and John Bonifield contributed to this report.

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