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New York health officials report 1st case of polio in the US since 2013

Medical professionals should be "vigilant" for other cases, they warned.
Poliovirus, Tem
A Rockland County resident has a confirmed case of polio, health officials said, and it's the first in the U.S. in almost a decade.Universal Images Group via Getty Images

For the first time in nearly a decade, someone in the U.S. has tested positive for polio, New York state health officials reported today.

The patient lives in Rockland County, and the state and county health departments urged health care providers to be "vigilant" in looking for additional cases.

Polio is a disease caused by the poliovirus that can cause flu-like and respiratory symptoms initially, which can develop into muscle weakness and paralysis. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend routine vaccination against polio for children ages 2 months through 6 years.

Health officials urged those who are not vaccinated against polio, including children, to do so quickly.

“Based on what we know about this case, and polio in general, the Department of Health strongly recommends that unvaccinated individuals get vaccinated or boosted with the FDA-approved IPV polio vaccine as soon as possible,” Dr. Mary T. Bassett, the state's health commissioner, said in a press release.

“The polio vaccine is safe and effective, protecting against this potentially debilitating disease," Dr. Bassett said. "And it has been part of the backbone of required, routine childhood immunizations recommended by health officials and public health agencies nationwide."

How the Rockland County resident got polio is not entirely clear yet. But the health department noted that the type of polio this patient has suggested a "transmission chain from an individual who received the oral polio vaccine," which hasn't been used in the U.S. since 2000. That indicates this person may have picked up polio outside the country.

Cases like these, called vaccine-derived polio, don’t involve the natural so-called "wild type" poliovirus but rather a weakened strain originally used in the oral vaccine, the CDC explains. Since then, the strain has evolved over time to act more like naturally occurring poliovirus.

Thanks to regular polio vaccination, introduced in the U.S. in the 1950s, the last naturally occurring case of polio was in 1979, the CDC says. And the last vaccine-derived case was identified in 2013. Just last month, health officials in the U.K. warned that they'd detected vaccine-derived poliovirus in London wastewater.

People in Rockland County who aren't vaccinated against polio or only received part of the vaccine series can get the shots at local vaccine clinics. And those who are vaccinated but may have been exposed should get a booster, the health department said.