Scientists fear polio plan will be repeated in COVID horror show

Scientists fear polio program is a rerun of Covid horror show

Polio It reappeared in America for the first time in a generation. On July 18, the New York State Department of Health told the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that it had identified a poliovirus that can cause paralysis or death in a small percentage of cases in a young adult in Rockland County. , on the outskirts of New York. City.

New York authorities later found the virus in sewers in Rockland and neighboring Orange County – evidence of local community spread.

That first case prompted authorities in the UK and Israel to step up their surveillance – and they also found polio.

A polio crisis can develop. But even describing polio as “One of America’s Most Feared Diseases” The CDC tries to maintain full government control over poliovirus testing. Only central governments and some states that already carry out polio testing will have the facility to monitor the pathogen.

By withholding testing materials and protocols that require private labs such as Massachusetts-based surveillance startup BioBot to detect and monitor the virus, the CDC has allowed the virus to spread unnoticed in some communities, restricting the study of potential outbreaks. . .

“They want to do it,” Vincent Raconello, a professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Columbia University, told The Daily Beast. “Just like they wanted to limit COVID testing early in the epidemic.”

The problem is that even the CDC admits that it blocked the initial Covid response. Last week, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told the agency’s 11,000 employees that the CDC needed a top-down review. “Frankly, we were responsible for some pretty dramatic and public errors, from testing to data to communications,” Walensky said. she said.

The CDC will repeat some of its mistakes. Amy Kirby, an Emory University epidemiologist who heads the CDC’s National Wastewater Surveillance System, did not respond to a request for comment.

The polio virus is transmitted through direct contact with fecal matter. Before the discovery of the oral vaccine in the early 1950s and the widespread promotion of childhood vaccines, polio outbreaks caused more than 15,000 strokes a year in the United States alone.

Antibiotics Poliomyelitis squeezed. By the 1970s, the disease had all but disappeared from some of the poorest and most remote countries, such as Afghanistan. When it reappeared, it was usually the result of international travel — and local health officials were quick to isolate those infected and stop the spread.

The CDC tracked poliovirus in the US community once between 1979 and 2022. In 2005, the Minnesota Department of Health found poliovirus in an unvaccinated girl in a largely unvaccinated Amish community. Three more children became sick before the virus was contained.

[It] It shouldn’t be hard to do.

Today, in rich countries, including the United States, 90% or more of the population is vaccinated against polio. But childhood vaccination rates are declining because of anti-vax attitudes among minority populations. It’s no coincidence that Rockland County, where the CDC found poliovirus last month, has a lower vaccination rate than the rest of the country: About 60 percent.

“The occurrence of this case, along with the detection of poliovirus in sewage in neighboring Orange County, underscores the importance of maintaining high vaccination coverage to prevent polio in all age groups,” the CDC said. emphasized in a statement It was posted last week.

The public health stakes could not be higher as the world grapples not only with the current COVID pandemic, but also with the rapid outbreak of monkeypox. But the potential disaster did not encourage the CDC to release the DNA primers needed to diagnose polio in private labs. “No one but civilians is allowed to do this. [i.e. government] health labs,” Rob Knight, head of the Computational Genomics Laboratory at the University of California, San Diego, told The Daily Beast.

Without primers and other materials, private labs – and the researchers associated with those labs – could not help the government detect polio in other communities. Racaniello likened the CDC’s reluctance to expand polio testing to the agency’s similarly tight control of COVID testing in the early months of the novel coronavirus pandemic. “It didn’t go very well,” Raganello said. mentioned in a tweet.

The worst case scenario is that polio spreads undetected for weeks – monkey pox At first it spread unnoticed Many doctors confused it with herpes or some other sexually transmitted disease.

The CDC review seems bureaucratic. From a technical point of view, detecting poliovirus in sewage is no more difficult than detecting SARS-CoV-2 or any other virus, Knight explained. Take a sewer sample and run the PCR test.

But in the United States, restrictions on polio are stricter than for other diseases. “From a regulatory standpoint, you have to count all samples that contain polio,” Knight said. Polio surveillance, he added, is a “bureaucratic nightmare to ride.”

There is also the cost factor. It would cost millions of dollars to scale up polio testing in private labs. Laboratories may want to pay government aid. How CDC Leaders May Have Noted Growing Reluctance The US Congress decided it would be easier for the CDC to pay for Covid tests and keep polio tests at home.

But easier doesn’t mean better, and it’s not about public health. With some effort and a little money, private labs can beef up the government’s surveillance system. “[It] Testing wastewater shouldn’t be difficult,” James Lawler, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, told The Daily Beast. “The BioBot and others who are already on the lookout can get up quickly.”

Both speed and detailed surveillance are important when it comes to infectious diseases. A small effort by the CDC and some government funding can make the difference between a single polio infection in a small New York county or one that affects the entire United States.

Or even the whole world.

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