Polio Making a Comeback?


NEW HAVEN, Conn. (Ivanhoe Newswire) – If it seems like we’ve been battling one virus after another the past two years, you’re right. Federal officials are now stepping up to monitor and potentially fight the spread of polio. It’s a disease that spreads from person to person and can cause paralysis and death in people who are not vaccinated against it. Polio comeback.

If you’re 70 or older, you would probably remember a machine called the iron lung that kept polio patients breathing. But now, decades after Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine was approved for use, polio is making headlines again. This summer, health experts identified one case of paralytic polio in an unvaccinated man in New York. Yale pediatric infectious disease expert, Dr. Tom Murray, MD, PhD, says even though the polio vaccine is part of the series of shots routinely given in childhood, there are pockets of unvaccinated people in the United States.

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“We need about 80% of individuals to be vaccinated for herd immunity. And while we have that across the entire population, there are areas where it’s less than 80% and those groups are at risk,” Dr. Murray explains.

Experts in New York have also found polio in the wastewater, which means the virus is present and people are either having mild symptoms such as fever, an upset stomach, and aches, or no symptoms at all.

Dr. Murray says there is no cure for polio, so prevention is key. He recommends parents make sure their kids are up-to-date on their scheduled vaccines, since the polio vaccine is given in four separate doses between the ages of two months and six years.

Health experts say most adults received the polio vaccine as children and should not need to be vaccinated. However, the CDC recommends adults who are unvaccinated, or only partially vaccinated, receive the polio vaccination. Health experts say it is very rare to get paralytic polio if you are vaccinated.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Producer; Kirk Manson, Videograpgher; Roque Correa, Editor.

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REPORT:       MB #5145

BACKGROUND: Poliovirus is a life-threatening disease. It is spread between people and infects the spinal chord and causes paralysis. Polio has existed since ancient times and has been known as lethal since. If someone experienced polio in youth but recovered some movement, they can become weaker again in adulthood. This is known as post polio syndrome. Some victims become restricted to a wheelchair after contracting the disease. There is no cure for polio virus and treatments often include speeding recovery and preventing future complication. Pain relievers, portable ventilators, and moderate exercise are often prescribed.




DIAGNOSING: Around 25 percent of people who experience polio virus have flu like symptoms. These symptoms can include: sore throat, fever, tiredness, nausea, headaches, and stomach pains. They usually last between two and five days and fade on their own. Some people will experience more severe symptoms such as meningitis or paralysis. Doctors often detect polio virus through neck and back stifness, unusual reflex, and trouble swallowing and breathing. They will take throat swabs, stool, or fluid circling the brain and spinal chord to detect for polio. Those who are not vaccinated are most at risk for polio, along with those who travel often, are under five years old, and are pregnant.





NEW TECHNOLOGY: The polio virus poses a threat again after the virus was detected in the metro area of New York City. Officials in the U.S. expressed concern about future outbreaks of polio. There are currently two polio virus vaccines and doctors recommend people make sure they are up to date with their vaccines. Unvaccinated induviduals are at higher risks for contracting in places with lower vaccination covergage. If you are vaccinated against polio you will not contract poliomyelitis, meaning the virus is avoidable if you receive a vaccine.






Colleen Moriarty


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Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Dr. Tom Murray, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of pediatric diseases and global health

Read the entire Q&A