EdDay
© Peter Carr/The Journal News
Rockland County Executive Ed Day announces case of polio
A case of polio has been reported in Rockland, county officials have confirmed. The viral disease, which can cause neurological symptoms, paralysis or death, had been considered eradicated in the U.S. for decades.

The person had not been vaccinated against polio, health officials said.

The person, a young adult, was hospitalized but is no longer, officials confirmed. Officials said the person had presented with paralysis but wouldn't say if the paralysis was permanent. The person is no longer able to transmit the virus, officials said.

State health officials said polio is considered very contagious and a person can spread the virus even if they are not sick.


Rockland County Executive Ed Day and County Health Commissioner Dr. Patricia Schnabel Ruppert encouraged residents who are unvaccinated or have not completed the polio vaccination series to get vaccinated as soon as possible. She said:
"Many of you may be too young to remember polio, but when I was growing up this disease struck fear in families, including my own. The fact that it is still around decades after the vaccine was created shows you just how relentless it is. Do the right thing for your child and the greater good of your community and have your child vaccinated now."
In 1979, polio was declared eliminated in the U.S. Although routine spread had halted, occasionally travelers with polio have brought infections into the U.S., with the last such case in 2013.

Rockland has dealt with other viruses in recent years, including a measles outbreak in 2018 and a high number of COVID-19 cases in 2020.

"In Rockland, we are battle tested," Day said.

Vax clinics

The county has scheduled a polio vaccination clinic for 10 a.m. to noon on Friday at the Yeager Center, Building A, in Pomona. A second clinic will be held 1 to 4 p.m. on July 25. Register at rocklandgov.com or call 845-238-1956. Walk-ins are also welcome. The state has provided an extra 300 doses of polio vaccine to add to the county stock, Ruppert said.

RefuahHealth officials said they are working with local and state officials to monitor the situation and ensure the safety of the community.

Dr. Corinna Manini, chief medical officer at RefuahHealth, said:
"We're preparing our providers and staff to ensure that they are able to recognize potential cases of polio and can effectively inform and educate patients and the community about the safety and availability of vaccines."
RefuahHealth is also offering walk-in polio vaccination clinics at its acute care location, 728 North Main St., Spring Valley from 8 a.m. to midnight Sunday through Thursday and from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Polio usually is transmitted by mouth, usually from hands contaminated with the fecal matter of an infected person. It can also be transmitted through saliva by oral-to-oral or respiratory contact.
Up to 95% of people infected with polio have no symptoms, yet they can still spread the virus. Most who do have symptoms get a fever, muscle weakness, headache, nausea and vomiting. Up to 2% of infected people develop severe muscle pain and stiffness in the neck and back; less than 1% of cases result in paralysis.
According to the state Department of Health, sequencing on this case showed it was revertant polio Sabin type 2 virus. This points to a transmission chain from an individual who received an older form of oral polio vaccine that hasn't been used in the U.S. in over two decades. Only inactivated polio vaccine has been given in the U.S. since 2000.

The sick individual had not taken that oral vaccine, health officials said, or any polio vaccination. Testing is being done at the state's Wadsworth Center and at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Vaccine hesitancy 'spilling over'

Day said that the vaccine hesitancy seen in the aftermath of COVID, and even before, has created a lag in vaccinations seen around the world, nation and in Rockland.

The Rockland County Health Department this summer sent letters to 3,000 families of school-age children notifying them of missing vaccinations needed to attend public and non-public schools in New York State, Day said.

"Vaccine hesitancy is exactly what led to the measles epidemic," Day said.

Day said added skepticism about COVID vaccinations means hesitancy "is spilling over" and impacting other standard vaccinations. Polio vaccines were first introduced in 1955.

"This is an amazing vaccine that people waited in lines for in the mid-1950s," Ruppert said.

U.S. children are still routinely vaccinated against polio, and in New York it is a required vaccination to attend public school or day care. Federal officials recommend four doses: to be given at 2 months of age; 4 months; at 6 to 18 months; and at age 4 through 6 years. Some states require only three doses.

According to the CDC's most recent childhood vaccination data, about 93% of 2-year-olds had received at least three doses of polio vaccine.

Since 2000, only inactivated vaccines are given in the U.S., health officials said, so there is no risk of getting polio from the shot.

Polio is endemic in Afghanistan and Pakistan, although numerous countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia have also reported cases in recent years.

British officials reported last month that polio was detected in London sewage samples and urged people to make sure vaccinations were up to date. After a small outbreak of polio cases in Jerusalem this spring, Israeli health officials expanded its polio vaccination campaign.

For more information on polio, its symptoms, and how it spreads, visit the New York Department of Health's page here. New Yorkers can learn more about the polio vaccine available in the U.S. at the CDC's page here.