polio It reappeared in the United States for the first time in a generation. On July 18, the New York State Department of Health told the US Centers for Disease and Prevention that it had detected the polio virus, which can cause paralysis or death in a small percentage of cases, in a young adult in the county. of Rockland, on the outskirts of New York. City.
New York authorities discovered the virus in wastewater in Rockland and neighboring Orange County – evidence of transmission in the local community.
This first case prompted UK and Israeli authorities to step up monitoring – they also discovered polio.
A polio crisis may be brewing. But even though polio has been described as “One of America’s Most Terrifying Diseases,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is trying to maintain full government control over polio virus testing. Only federal and some states that already carry out polio testing will be equipped to detect the pathogen.
By withholding testing materials and protocols, private labs — like the BioBot to start surveillance in Massachusetts — will need to detect and track the virus, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are allowing the virus to spread unnoticed in some countries. communities, while also limiting the study of potential outbreaks. .
“They want to do it themselves,” Vincent Rachaniello, a professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Columbia University, told The Daily Beast. “Just like they wanted to control COVID testing at the beginning of the pandemic.”
The thing is, even the CDC admits that it botched the initial response to the coronavirus disease. Last week, CDC Director Rochelle Walinsky told the agency’s 11,000 employees that the CDC needed a review. “To be honest, we are responsible for some very dramatic public errors, from testing to data to communications,” he said.
The CDC may be on the verge of repeating some of its mistakes. Amy Kirby, an Emory University epidemiologist who directs the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Wastewater Surveillance System, did not respond to a request for comment.
The polio virus is transmitted through direct contact with feces. Before the invention of an oral vaccine in the early 1950s and a mass campaign to vaccinate children, polio outbreaks caused more than 15,000 cases of paralysis in the United States alone each year.
Crushed Polio vaccines. By the 1970s, the disease had virtually disappeared from all but a handful of poorer, more remote countries like Afghanistan. When it resurfaced, it was usually the result of international travel — and soon local health officials isolated those infected and stopped the spread.
The CDC tracked the polio virus in an American community only once between 1979 and 2022. In 2005, the Minnesota Department of Health identified the polio virus in an unvaccinated child in a largely unvaccinated Amish community. Three more children fell ill before the virus was contained.
“[It] It shouldn’t be hard to do.“
Today, 90% or more of people in the wealthiest countries, including the United States, are vaccinated against polio. But childhood vaccination rates are falling as anti-vaccination attitudes spread to a growing minority of people. It’s no coincidence that Rockland County, where the CDC detected the polio virus last month, has a lower vaccination rate than the rest of the country: About 60 percent.
“The occurrence of this case, along with the identification of poliovirus in wastewater in neighboring Orange County, underscores the importance of maintaining high vaccination coverage to prevent paralytic polio in people of all ages,” he said. confirmed in a report It was posted last week.
The public health risks could not be greater as the world is not only dealing with the ongoing COVID pandemic, but also an accelerating outbreak of monkeypox. But the impending potential catastrophe has not prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to release the DNA primers needed to detect polio in private labs. Basically, no one is allowed to do this except in public. [i.e. government] Rob Knight, head of the Genetic Computing Laboratory at the University of California, San Diego, told The Daily Beast.
Without raw materials and other materials, private labs – and the researchers associated with those labs – cannot help the government find polio in other communities. Racanelo compared the CDC’s reluctance to expand polio testing to the agency’s similarly strict control over COVID testing during the first few months of the novel coronavirus pandemic. “That didn’t work out well,” Rachaniello noted in a tweet.
The worst case scenario is that polio spreads for weeks without anyone noticing – much like monkey pox. It spreads unnoticed at first Many doctors don’t understand this as herpes or some other sexually transmitted disease.
The stubbornness of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention seems bureaucratic. From a technical point of view, Knight explained, detecting poliovirus in wastewater is no more difficult than detecting SARS-CoV-2 or any other virus. Take a sample of wastewater, do a PCR test.
But in the United States, polio regulations are much stricter than those for other diseases. “From an organizational point of view, you have to count every sample that might contain polio,” Knight said. He added that polio monitoring is a “paperwork nightmare.”
There is also the cost factor. Intensifying polio testing in private laboratories could cost millions of dollars. And labs might want to help the government pay for it. CDC leaders may have noticed the US Congress’ increased frequency to pay for COVID testing and concluded that it would be easier for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to continue polio testing at home.
But easier doesn’t necessarily mean better, not when it comes to overall health. With some effort and a little money, private labs can improve the government’s surveillance system. “[It] “It shouldn’t be difficult to do a sewer test,” James Lawler, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, told The Daily Beast. “The BioBot and others that are already monitoring can get up quickly.”
Rapid and thorough surveillance is important when it comes to infectious diseases. A small effort by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and some government funding can make the difference between a once-in-a-generation polio outbreak that strikes two small New York counties or a broader outbreak that This potentially affects the entire United States.
Or even the whole world.
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