New York worries about a polio resurgence

published on Saturday 03 September 2022 at 08:45

Brittany Strickland was “scared to death” when she learned this summer that the United States had recorded its first case of polio in nearly a decade, a young New Yorker suffering from paralysis.

“It’s scary. We didn’t think it would happen here,” said the 33-year-old woman, interviewed by AFP in Pomona, a town in Rockland County in New York, 50 kilometers north of Manhattan.

“My mother was against vaccinations and I realized that as a child I had not been vaccinated against polio,” confesses this designer who has just received her first dose against the polio virus, which had practically disappeared.

At this time, the health authorities of New York ont ​​prevent the poliomyelitis virus, maladie très contagious, from being transmitted through the seals, the secretions of the skin and the gorge or in buvant de l’eau contaminanée, avait été detecté dans sewage.

A “worrying but not surprising” discovery, according to the authorities, who believe that “the virus is probably circulating locally” and that New Yorkers who have not yet been vaccinated should do so as soon as possible.

Because in mid-July, the first proven case of polio was reported in Rockland County, the first in the United States since 2013.

– 60% of children vaccinated –

For New York City, 86% of children ages six months to five years have received three doses of the vaccine, meaning 14% are not fully protected.

In Rockland County, only 60% of two-year-olds are vaccinated, compared to 79% in New York state overall and 92% nationwide, according to health officials.

“Concerned,” the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sent experts to New York state this summer to improve screening and vaccination. Because the disease can have “devastating and irreversible consequences.”

Poliomyelitis, which mainly affects the youngest and causes paralysis, is practically eradicated in the world, with the exception of poor countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan.

In the United States, whose president Franklin Roosevelt contracted the disease in 1921 at the age of 39, the number of infections fell in the late 1950s (15,000 cases of paralysis per year at that time), thanks to a first vaccine.

– Last natural polio in 1979 –

The last natural infection in the country dates back to 1979.

But health authorities know that, in rare cases (2% to 4% of a million vaccinated children), unvaccinated people could have been contaminated by others who received the oral polio vaccine.

This ampoule-administered vaccine has been banned in the United States since 2000.

But the World Health Organization revealed in June that a variant of the poliovirus derived from oral vaccines had been detected in London sewage.

The analysis of the Rockland case also suggests that the infection of the young New Yorker would come from a person who had been vaccinated orally.

This oral vaccine replicates in the gut and can be transmitted through sewage containing fecal matter.

Less virulent than the natural virus, this variant can nevertheless cause severe symptoms, such as paralysis of the limbs in unvaccinated patients.

And since the Rockland patient has not traveled internationally, New York state officials believe the illness was transmitted locally in the county.

– Orthodox Jews –

A large Orthodox Jewish community resides in this quiet, green, tree-lined residential suburb. And according to local publications, Rockland’s patient is an Orthodox Jewish American in his twenties.

As health communicator Shoshana Bernstein acknowledges, her community is traditionally averse to vaccines, but like “any isolated and closed group.”

Ms. Bernstein, however, delivers the message, like a dozen rabbis last week in a letter to Rockland Jews: Get vaccinated.

He also leans on “older Jews” who remember the polio of the 1950s and can convince recalcitrant younger ones.

More pessimistic, virologist John Dennehy, from New York University, fears that the Rockland case is “the tip of the iceberg” when he believed that the “virus was on the way to extinction.”

#York #worries #polio #resurgence

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