Polio: What’s Your Risk?

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Due to a small recent outbreak, the deadly disease polio has been back in the news recently. Polio hasn’t been a significant problem for the country for nearly 50 years, so what’s the big deal with the recent polio infection, are you at risk for polio infection, and what can you do to protect yourself? Read on below to learn about all this and more.

Why the current worry about polio?

Recent news of polio stems from a case that developed in New York state last month, where an unvaccinated adult from Rockland County caught polio and was hospitalized with paralysis. When searching the area, health officials discovered three positive samples of the polio virus in wastewater from Rockland County.

If, as of now, there’s only one confirmed case of polio in the U.S., why all the fuss? Well, first of all, there hasn’t been a case of polio that originated in the U.S. since 1979. Polio was one of the most feared diseases in the world for decades, but advancements in science and medicine helped nearly eradicate it through vaccinations. This new polio case is actually from a vaccine-derived poliovirus known as VDPV2, not from the original wild poliovirus.

The polio vaccine

If this new case of polio came from the vaccine, are people who have been vaccinated against polio in danger? The short answer is no – there’s currently no need to worry. OPV (oral polio vaccine) has been proven to be a safe and effective way to protect against polio infection, and the individual who caught the disease was unvaccinated.

National polio vaccine rates

According to the CDC, nearly 93% of children receive the polio vaccine by the time they’re two years old, and there are more children who receive the vaccine after this. Because of this, the vast majority of people in the United States and the world at large are vaccinated against polio already, making a major outbreak extremely unlikely.

CDC response

How is the CDC handling this new polio case? For starters, they’ve sent a federal team to New York to assess the situation and take necessary action. So far, none of their findings indicate that the individual who caught polio was ever near the locations where the team has found samples of the virus.

The CDC hasn’t announced how long they plan to remain in the area or if they have any long-term plans to ensure everyone’s safety, but they’re working with local and state health officials to take necessary precautions. 

Do you need to do anything?

With all of this going on, is there anything that you need to do to protect yourself from polio? The CDC recommends that everyone, including pregnant mothers and babies under two years of age, receive the full three doses of the vaccine. This is especially important for children, as the majority of serious and life-threatening polio cases in the past have been among children under age 5.

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