Health officials in New York have confirmed a case of polio in Rockland County, marking what could be the first known infection in the US since 2013. The last naturally occurring cases of polio in the US were reported in 1979.
The New York Department of Health reports that the case appears to have come from an infected person who received the oral polio vaccine, which has not been administered in the US since 2000.
That suggests that the virus may have originated outside the country.
Polio typically enters through the mouth or through respiratory and oral-to-oral transmission, according to health officials. The highly contagious virus impacts the nervous system, with symptoms including muscle fatigue and weakness with flu-like symptoms like fever and headache.
A national vaccine programme following the success of a vaccine in 1955 dramatically reduced the number of polio cases in the following decades, with the last naturally occuring cases documented in 1979. The last known case in the US was recorded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2013.
The virus also has entered the country from people traveling into the US. The last time that occured was in 1993, according to the CDC.
Polio remains endemic in Afghanistan and Pakistan, while countries across Africa, Asia and the Middle East have also recently reported cases.
Health officials in the UK also have recently urged parents to vaccinate their children after polio virus was discovered in London sewage samples.
Polio vaccines have long been required as part of a school immunization schedule for all American children.
The vaccines are recommended in a series of doses beginning at 2 months of age, 4 months, between 6 and 18 months, and at age 4 through 6. Roughly 93 per cent of current 2-year-old children have received at least three doses, according to the CDC.
“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,” Rockland County Executive Ed Day said in a statement. “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.”
On 22 July, the county will host a vaccination clinic at the Pomona Health Complex from 10am to noon.
The clinic will also open from 1pm to 4pm on 25 July.
Health officials recommend anyone who is unvaccinated, including those who are pregnant or who have not completed their polio vaccine series, or fear that they have been exposed, should get vaccinated at those clinics.