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Polio makes appearance in New York; Ministry of Health raises alarm

ministry of health

Posted: Friday, July 22, 2022. 8:19 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: A case of vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2 (VDPV2) was confirmed on Thursday by the New York State Department of Health in an unvaccinated individual in Rockland County, New York, located just outside New York City – the first such case since 2013 according to international news reports.

The worry is that it could be the first of many, and that prompted a health alert issued by Belize’s Ministry of Health this evening.

According to CNN, the New York case was identified as a revertant polio Sabin type 2 virus, indicating that it was derived from someone who received the oral polio vaccine, which contains a live but weakened form of the polio virus. Officials say this suggests that the virus originated outside the U.S., where the oral vaccine is still administered, but they are investigating the origins of this particular case. Health officials said Thursday that the person had not traveled outside the U.S. before or after they were diagnosed.

Paralytic poliomyelitis, polio for short, is caused by three closely related poliovirus types, 1, 2, and 3, and can sometimes be spread in airborne droplets when in close contact with infected persons, such as coughing, sneezing, or exposure to throat and nose secretions.

This vaccine-derived type of poliovirus should not be confused with wild poliovirus, of which the Americas has been free and clear since 1994 and Belize since 1981.

Belizean children were more than 95 percent vaccinated for polio in each year since 1981 up to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, which cut vaccination rates to just under 79 percent in 2020 and 83 percent in 2021. Nonetheless, the Ministry advises that early detection by surveillance for acute flaccid paralysis in children under 15 and maintaining high polio vaccination numbers is key as immunization is the only protection against polio infection – there is no treatment nor cure for this disease.

The virus spreads seven to 10 days before and after experiencing signs and symptoms of the disease, which include fever, diarrhea, sore throat, upset stomach, headache, pain or stiffness in the neck, back and legs. Unvaccinated persons may acquire the infection when in contact with the virus.

The public is advised to review the children’s immunization status and if not fully vaccinated, vaccines are available at health facilities and during mobile clinics.


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