Polio ‘Not a Major Concern' After New York Case Reported, Chicago's Top Doctor Says

For the first time in nearly a decade, a case of polio has been confirmed in the United States, but Chicago’s top doctor says that she is not concerned about any potential spread of the virus at this time. Poliovirus, which is considered to be eradicated in the United States, is extremely contagious, but its spread is limited by the wide availability of effective vaccines, which are more than 99% successful in preventing infection. Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, “It’s not a major concern and not a local concern at this point,” she said. “From a public health standpoint, this is a disease that we’ve not had to worry about, but we’ve not detected issues with it.” Arwady says that staying up-to-date on vaccines is key. “I do have concerns about people not being up to date with vaccines. The reason that I want to make sure that everybody’s up to date with all of their traditional vaccines is that we don’t want these diseases of the past coming back again,” she said. Arwady says that there have been reports of polio being detected in wastewater samples taken in the United Kingdom, but that no such threat has been detected in Chicago. According to NBC News, the New York State Department of Health recently reported that a resident tested positive for the illness in mid-July, cautioning healthcare providers to be on the lookout for additional cases. The young adult, who was unvaccinated, had not recently traveled abroad, and developed paralysis from the illness. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the most recent case of polio recorded in the United States occurred in 2013. Experts say that polio is extremely contagious, and a person can spread the virus even if they don’t have symptoms. Approximately one out of four patients infected by poliovirus will have flu-like symptoms, while most will not develop any visible symptoms. Symptoms usually last just 2-to-5 days and resolve on their own, according to the CDC. The virus can also cause more serious symptoms, including meningitis in 1-in-25 cases and paralysis in 1-in-200 cases. According to the CDC, even children that recover from symptomatic cases of the virus can develop muscle pain, weakness or paralysis as adults, some up to 40 years after their infection. There is no known cure for the virus.

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