Since the first case of polio in the United States in nearly a decade was reported in New York in July, health officials have been working to encourage polio vaccination in low-coverage areas since “[e]even a single case of paralytic poliomyelitis represents a health emergency “.
Polio has probably been around in the United States for longer than previously believed
In July, New York health officials announced that a case of polio had been detected in the state after a young Rockland County adult was paralyzed by the disease. This was the first reported case of polio in the United States since 2013.
Since then, sewage surveillance has detected many more poliovirus samples in Rockland and Orange Counties, as well as in New York City. A recent Center for Disease Prevention and Control analysis of New York’s wastewater data found changes in the virus’s genome that suggest it could have circulated around the world for up to a year, with the first sample detected in New York since April.
According to several health experts, polio has likely been around in the United States for much longer and more widely than previously believed.
“I think in the coming weeks you will see more and more reports of poliovirus in wastewater elsewhere,” said Vincent Racaniello, virologist at Columbia University.
Davida Smyth, from Texas A&M University-San Antonioagreed, saying she was “absolutely convinced” that the poliovirus will be detected in the wastewater of other US communities in the coming weeks.
“Here’s the thing: polio is here in the United States, it’s not gone,” Racaniello said. “It’s in the sewage. It could contaminate you, so if you’re not vaccinated, it could be a problem.”
How health officials can improve polio vaccination rates
In a recent report, CDC wrote that “[e]even a single case of paralytic polio represents a public health emergency in the United States. “To reduce the potential spread of the poliovirus, both federal and local health officials have encouraged unvaccinated people to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
Currently, many of the polio samples detected in New York are from counties with relatively low polio vaccination rates. In both Rockland and Orange counties where poliovirus was detected, the polio vaccination rate is about 60%, and the CDC found coverage was “up to 37.3%” in some specific areas. of the Rockland County Postal Code.
Without an effective vaccination campaign, health officials fear that the poliovirus could spread from New York to other nearby communities, particularly as more people travel.
“Rockland County is basically New York City,” said Perry Halkitis, dean of the School of Public Health to Rutger University. “New York City is basically New Jersey. Rockland County is basically Connecticut.”
“There are probably dozens, if not hundreds, if not more cases of undetected polio in our population? Probably,” he added. “Are we taking them? Probably not.”
To address vaccination hesitation in areas with low polio vaccination rates, Mona Montal, chief of staff for the City of Rampo in Rockland County, and Shoshana Bernstein, an independent health communicator, partnered with trusted community leaders to spread the word about polio vaccination. In addition, they created a carefully worded infographic in four different languages, including English, Spanish, Haitian Creole, and Yiddish, to reach more communities.
“People have had PTSD with the word vaccination,” Montal said. “So we’re immunizing, we’re not vaccinating. And that’s the message.”
Separately, Sallie Permar, chief pediatrician at NewYork-Presbyterian Komansky Children’s Hospital and president of the department of pediatrics a Weill Cornell Medicineand Jay Varma, the director of Weill Cornell’s Pandemic Prevention Response Centerexplained in STATISTICS how the US could improve vaccine delivery through pediatricians, including through:
- Funding of partnerships between ASL and Pediatric Offices to identify children who are not up to date with vaccinations
- Make high vaccination rates a part of pediatricians’ quality improvement processes, similar to the models used for flu vaccines during their seasonal deployments
- Offering substantial incentive payments through state Medicaid programs to pediatricians who achieve high vaccination rates
According to William Schaffner of the Vanderbilt University Medical CenterPolio reports in the United States remind healthcare professionals and their patients that the virus continues to be a real health concern.
“[It’s] the reverse of the old saying, ‘it’s gone, but not forgotten,’ “Schnaffer said.” Polio is forgotten, but it hasn’t gone. “(DePeau-Wilson, MedPage today, 25/8; Daniel, “Shots,” NPR, 8/24; Permar / Varma, STATISTICS26/8)