Tuesday, October 4

Polio unleashes fear in New York at the risk of a new epidemic


The discovery of the virus in sewage and the case detected in Rockland County in July keeps some families uneasy

A traffic jam entering Manhattan from Brooklyn via the Williamsburg Bridge.Mary AltafferAP
  • emerging infections Polio virus detected in London sewage

There is concern and fear in New York about the appearance of the polio virus in the city’s sewage. The disease that ravaged the African continent for decades and that in the late 1980s paralyzed more than a thousand children a day around the world, is on the lips of mothers and fathers in the Big Apple after it detected a case in Rockland County in late July, the first in a decade in the United States, and has also spread by London and Jerusalem.

On Friday, the city’s health authorities confirmed the finding in New York’s sewage, “suggesting local transmission of the virus“, according to a statement. They immediately warned of the risk of paralysis “and even death” and recommended that those who do not have proper protection be vaccinated as soon as possible.

So far, about twenty positive samples have been identified in the sewage of Orange and Rockland counties, in addition to the six belonging to New York City between June and July. Although the alarms have not yet gone off nor have the levels of London been reached, where an additional dose of the vaccine has been recommended for children aged 1 to 9 years, fear is palpable in some neighborhoods.

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Elsa de Berker, mother of a two-year-old boy in Brooklyn, confessed to New York Times that she is “terrified” despite the fact that her son is up to date on vaccinations and that experts believe there is no reason to be alarmed. It is, after all, about a disease without a cure with a high capacity for irreversible paralysis in children under five years of age.

History of an eradicated disease

The 1952 epidemic in the US affected more than 58,000 people and killed 3,145., with more than 21,000 cases with some type of permanent paralysis. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, the last cases developed “naturally” in the country occurred in 1979, although the most recent detected before Rockland occurred in 2013.

The level of mortality was high before the appearance of the vaccine in 1955, a pathology with hardly any symptoms that can be spread from one person to another and that is present in feces. Some patients may experience fever, sore throat, upset stomach, or flu-like symptoms, while others feel discomfort in the back. Only one in 200 cases can result in permanent paralysis or even death.

for now New York has not launched a mass vaccination campaign but the authorities have contacted health providers to pay attention to areas where the level of vaccination is especially low. It is estimated that 93% of children under five in the city have at least one dose against polio.

thanks to one global vaccination campaigncases have been reduced by 99% since 1988, from some 350,000 cases in more than 125 countries to just 6 cases recorded last year.

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