YOUR HEALTH: Polio making a comeback?

If it seems like we’ve been battling one virus after another the past two years, you’re right.
Published: Feb. 24, 2023 at 6:28 AM CST|Updated: Feb. 24, 2023 at 7:20 AM CST
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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.

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 Salks 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.

“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.

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