Polio outbreak in New York: “The virus is here”

Status: 09/15/2022 07:56

The polio epidemic in New York can no longer be limited to isolated cases. Poor hygiene and skepticism about vaccinations favor the spread of the virus. Scientists sound the alarm.

By Peter Mücke, ARD Studio New York

It seems an isolated case. In July, a man in Rockland County, New York, became seriously ill with polio. According to media reports, the 20-year-old, who has not been vaccinated, is paralyzed by the infection. The first case in the United States in more than ten years.

Paralysis is a very rare consequence of polio infection, even when people are not vaccinated. 75% of infected people have no symptoms. Nearly 25 percent have only very mild symptoms. Less than one percent of even those who are not vaccinated develop a severe course. This means that for one case of paralysis there are probably hundreds or thousands of infections.

Different strains of viruses discovered

For Adam Ratner, director of the Department of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at NYU Langone University Hospital, as early as July this year it was clear that the polio case was a public health emergency. The authorities took a little longer. Just a few days ago, the state of New York declared a disaster. Because now the virus has also been detected in the wastewater of the metropolis:

The polio virus is here. Circulate. Enter the sewers because infected people excrete the virus. And if these people don’t wash their hands and come into contact with unvaccinated people, we could soon see children paralyzed. Or the adults on the fans can never get off.

This says Daniel Griffin, a professor of clinical medicine at Columbia University in New York. Several strains of the virus have been found in the wastewater of four districts and some surrounding counties.

Another indication that this is not just an isolated case. “It’s worrying. In fact, it’s very worrying,” Griffin said. “I hope this is a warning sign for people who are not vaccinated or have unvaccinated children. A wake-up call.”

Vaccine skepticism among Orthodox Jews

The vaccination rate for two-year-olds in New York State is only 79 percent. In Rockland County – 50 kilometers north of New York City – only 60 percent. There was a severe case of polio with paralysis. Local media reported that the infected person belongs to an Orthodox Jewish community there.

Orthodox Jews are particularly skeptical of vaccinations and are widely represented in Rockland County. In an open letter, more than a dozen rabbis asked their parishioners to be vaccinated against polio. Shoshana Bernstein, herself an Orthodox Jew, also educates communities about vaccinations:

Secular media hardly get through here. There are many rumors. When the CDC publishes something, no one reads it. I always say: it is very easy to arouse fear and very difficult to undo it.

Now he is hoping for the older members of the congregation. You might still remember the polio epidemics in the 1950s and get young people to get vaccinated.

Polio on the rise – New York declares disaster

Peter Mücke, ARD New York, September 15, 2022 6:18 am

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.