US reports first polio case in a decade as disease re-emerges

New York officials step up vaccination campaign to help eradicate virus

A health worker gives polio vaccine drops to a child during a three-day vaccination drive in Islamabad, Pakistan.   EPA
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Polio has been diagnosed in the US for the first time in a decade, health officials in New York said on Thursday.

Officials said the adult patient was diagnosed after experiencing paralysis a month ago and that it was likely to have originated from overseas as the strain identified was linked to an oral vaccine no longer used in the US.

A vaccination clinic will begin offering shots to those unprotected in Rockland County, where the case was reported.

The highly contagious virus, which can be particularly dangerous in children, was eradicated from the US in 1979 — meaning there was no longer a routine spread — following a widespread vaccination campaign.

A safe vaccine has been circulated widely, with six doses given to children in stages from birth until the age of six to give protection from the disease.

The last reported case was in 2013 when a 7-month-old who had recently moved to the US from India was diagnosed in San Antonio, Texas, according to federal health officials.

Mobile clinics have been stepped up across New York to encourage unprotected children to receive a polio vaccine.

“We want shots in the arms of those who need it,” said Dr Patricia Schnabel Ruppert, Rockland County Health Commissioner, at a news conference.

Traces of polio have also been recently recorded in sewage samples taken in London, prompting UK health authorities to encourage parents to get their children vaccinated.

Further cases recently reported in Malawi have been traced back to Pakistan.

Disrupted vaccination campaigns in rural areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan due to the pandemic have been cited as possible reasons why new polio cases are being reported now.

A 15-month-old unprotected boy was left paralysed after contracting the disease in North Waziristan, in north-west Pakistan.

In Israel, seven cases reported in March and April were said to have derived from a circulating vaccine-derived polio virus (cVDPV), a form that originates from the oral polio vaccine (OPV) administered as drops.

A national vaccination campaign for those under 17 has since been launched.

Dr Moshe Ashkenazi, deputy director of Sheba Medical Centre's Safra Children's Hospital in Tel Aviv, recently told The National that parents had become complacent about vaccinations.

“There is a certain vaccine tiredness, as people are less keen to vaccinate themselves and their children,” he said.

The UAE has invested heavily to battle polio around the world, particularly in Pakistan where $23 million was donated to support public health campaigns in 2021.

Since 2014, the UAE has contributed more than $200m of funding to support polio vaccination campaigns across Pakistan.

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Updated: July 22, 2022, 8:17 AM