Naturally, these events raise many questions: Why should a single case of polio worry the authorities? What does it mean to find poliovirus in sewage? Who should worry about getting sick? If someone was vaccinated years ago, are they still protected now?
CNN: So far, New York City has only had one case of paralysis caused by the polio virus. Why is one case worrying health officials?
CNN: What does polio virus detection in sewage in five counties including New York mean?
magnifier: Finding poliovirus in sewage could mean one of two things: someone is actively infected with polio and is shedding the virus, or the virus signal may come from someone who has recently received oral polio vaccine (OPV). OPV is no longer available in the U.S. — the version used in the U.S. has been the injected inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) since 2000 — but OPV is still used in other countries, and travelers from those places may be free from the vaccine virus.
In rare cases, a weakened virus in someone newly vaccinated with OPV can cause paralytic polio in an unvaccinated person, one of the main reasons why OPV is no longer available in the United States.
Another area of concern is the genetic link between a sewage sample from Nassau County on Long Island and a case of paralytic polio found in Rockland County. (The two counties are not adjacent, but are about 40 miles apart.) This is further evidence that community transmission has gone largely unnoticed.
CNN: How do people get polio?
The polio virus can also be spread through the respiratory tract—for example, if an infected person coughs or sneezes and those droplets land on your mouth. It should be noted that people who have been vaccinated can also contract polio and pass it on to others, although they themselves are very well protected from severe disease.
CNN: Should New Yorkers worry about polio?
magnifier: Likewise, people who have been vaccinated against polio are very well protected against paralytic polio and are not a cause for concern at this stage. It should be emphasized, however, that while IPV is highly effective in preventing the most serious potential effects of the disease, vaccinated individuals may still be carriers of polio and potentially transmit it to others. Those who face serious consequences are the unvaccinated and incompletely vaccinated, including young children under the age of 6 who have not completed the polio vaccination course.
CNN: How many polio shots should a person get?
Adults who have never had the polio vaccine should receive three doses of IPV. The first should be done as soon as possible, the second should be done 1 to 2 months later, and the third should be done 6 to 12 months after the second.
CNN: If someone was vaccinated years ago, would they still be protected? Who should get a polio booster now?
CNN: What if you’re not sure if you’ve been vaccinated? Let’s say you don’t remember being vaccinated, and it’s been years. Are there any blood tests that can be done?
magnifier: You can check with your GP’s office or state health department to see if they have a record of your vaccinations. If not, and you have no other way to check – for example, by asking a parent or other relative or carer – you should talk to your healthcare provider. health care to get a full set of polio vaccine right away. There is no blood test that can reliably detect whether you are fully vaccinated against polio.
CNN: What if you or your family members have not been vaccinated against polio?
magnifier: People who have not yet received a single dose of the vaccine or who are not fully vaccinated should ensure that they receive the full range of polio vaccines immediately. This is especially important if they live in or near Rockland County, New York — but practically everyone should catch up on their routine vaccinations.
The tragedy of decades ago was that so many children were permanently paralyzed and even died of polio. This should not happen again because we have such an effective vaccine to prevent the severe consequences of this disease.