Polio reappears in New York, putting Michigan leaders on high alert – Detroit Free Press

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Polio – a viral epidemic that killed and paralyzed thousands of children every year in the 1940s and 1950s and was believed to have been eradicated in the United States – has been spreading for months in the New York City area, new details From the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which was revealed earlier this week.

The news has Michigan health leaders on high alert as immunization rates among young children for the series of primary childhood vaccines — which include polio, measles, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis and pneumonia — fell again in June to 67.1%.

That’s a drop of about 6.9 percentage points since July 2019, and leaves about a third of Michigan’s children susceptible to one or more vaccine-preventable diseases, according to new data released Thursday from Michigan Care Improvement Registry.

more: 32% of Michigan kids at risk of preventable disease as vaccination rates drop

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Polio can spread very quickly

“Since Covid hit Michigan in 2020, our child immunization numbers have decreased,” said Terry Adams, director of immunization at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. “They did not recover.”

She and other health leaders urged Michiganders to fully vaccinate their children before they return to school to reduce the spread of these diseases.

Dr. Dennis Cunningham, director of infection control and prevention at Henry Ford Health, said the risk of polio transmission is among his biggest concerns given what’s happening in New York.

“If there is a case of polio in Michigan, it could spread very quickly,” he said, due to low immunization numbers in the state.

Cunningham said unvaccinated people are at risk of contracting the polio virus, as are people who haven’t completed the full vaccine series — four doses given between the ages of two months and 6 years. The vaccine provides 99% protection against severe disease, according to the CDC.

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Diseases can come back and they will come back.

The situation is even more dire in seven counties in Michigan and Detroit, where the vaccination rate for early childhood series for young children has fallen below 60%.

Michigan’s lowest immunization rate is in Oskoda County, where only 28.9% of toddlers are on their vaccinations, according to the Michigan Care Improvement Registry. It is followed by Detroit, which has a completion rate of 47.2%. Others most at risk are Keweenaw (52.4%), Gladwin (56.9%), Leelanau (58.4%), Iron (58.5%), Sanilac (58.8%), and Lake (59.8%).

“Before COVID, we hadn’t seen these numbers below 70% for decades,” said Terry Adams, director of the Division of Immunization at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. “This means that we now have thousands of children in school unprotected from serious and deadly diseases such as measles, mumps, polio and whooping cough, to name a few.

“Diseases can come back and will spread and can spread through our classrooms and communities if not enough children and adults are vaccinated.”

Polio can spread silently through societies before anyone knows it’s there. That’s because most people who contract the virus do not have any symptoms. For 25% of people, symptoms are similar to those of the flu and can include:

  • Sore throat
  • Fever
  • exhaustion
  • Headache
  • nausea
  • stomachache

But it is the severe cases that can be devastating.

1 to 5 out of every 100 people can develop meningitis from polio infection. This can cause potentially life-threatening swelling of the brain or the lining surrounding the spinal cord, According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Fewer people are paralyzed by the virus, which can lead to permanent disability and in some cases, death.

“It’s really important to remember how many people have died or been paralyzed from polio in the past,” Cunningham said.

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The case of polio this year in New York

“The last thing I want to see is kids with … acute flaccid paralysis, which means your muscles lose all their tone … there really is no cure for it at that point. It’s too late,” Cunningham said.

Even children who seem to be recovering can suffer from Post-polio syndrome After years of adult life, which can include muscle pain, weakness, muscle atrophy, and joint pain.

The man in Rockland County, New York, who contracted polio this year is the second person in the United States since 1979 to have community transmission of the polio virus, according to the CDC, which provided details of his case. in a report Posted Tuesday.

He was not vaccinated when in June he developed a fever, a stiff neck, back and abdominal pain, constipation and weakness in the lower extremities.

Since his case was identified, sewage monitoring from Orange and Rockland counties has found 21 samples dating back to April that contained the polio virus. Three other possible cases of polio are under investigation, although initial test samples tested negative for the virus.

Michigan doesn’t test wastewater for polio

Michigan health officials told the Free Press that they do not test sewage samples for polio virus.

“The technology and standards for this test are in development, and we are actively partnering with the CDC to consider supporting the expansion of our wastewater monitoring program to include polio testing on a specific scale,” said Chelsea Wuth, a spokesperson for the state health department.

The CDC told the Free Press that polio wastewater testing is a priority in parts of New York “where the unvaccinated communities associated with the case are concentrated.”

“The CDC has begun working with jurisdictions to strategically select additional sites in areas at greatest risk of polio to test wastewater for polio virus,” said Katrina Grosic, a spokeswoman for the CDC.

The sites will be selected based on local vaccination coverage, the amount of travel to those communities from countries where the polio virus is common and whether they are already part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Wastewater Monitoring Systemwhich was created to track evidence of SARS-CoV-2 virus in wastewater.

“Once the program is established, the CDC will continue to evaluate the results and identify any potential need for expansion to additional jurisdictions or other measures,” Grosich said. “Wastewater data can be an important early warning signal, but is most effective when used in conjunction with other monitoring and clinical data.”

US risk remains low

Adams said there is no national polio wastewater monitoring because there is no money to pay for this type of detection.

“This is something that needs funding, and at the moment there is no federal wastewater funding program,” Adams said. “But we are on high alert. And so we urge everyone to keep up with all immunizations so we don’t see this happen in Michigan.”

Polio, she said, is a reportable disease, which means “any child, or any adult for that matter, may be in the caregiver’s office, in urgent care, in the emergency room, or in a hospital.. .with anything that seems from a distance that a case of polio will be reported.”

She said the Ministry of Health would then investigate to determine if the case was related to the polio virus.

However, Grosich stressed that the risk of polio in the United States in general remains low because most Americans have been fully vaccinated.

“We don’t have enough information at this time to determine whether the virus is actively spreading in New York or elsewhere in the United States, but to date, no additional cases (outside the case in Rockland County) have been identified,” Grusich said.

“New York sewage test results, however, indicate that the virus may be present in these communities, posing a risk to those who have not been vaccinated. The recent case of polio in New York occurred in an unvaccinated person who lives in a community with rates of Low vaccinations, as the polio virus can cause more damage.”

“Lack of vaccination has consequences”

Rockland County, New York, was also the site of measles outbreak In 2019 the disease spread to Michigan and infected 46 people in the state – resulting in the largest measles outbreak in Michigan in 28 years.

more: How an orthodox Jewish enclave of Oakland became the epicenter of a measles outbreak in Michigan

more: Born 1957-1989? You may not be protected from a measles outbreak

State health officials said a traveler from Israel inadvertently brought measles into Oakland County in early March 2019. Before visiting an Orthodox Jewish enclave in Southfield and Oak Park, the man spent time in Rockland County, which was a center of fasting. Measles outbreak is highly prevalent among unvaccinated children.

“We know we’re not isolated anymore,” Cunningham said in our increasingly global community. “You’re really only a 24-hour flight from anywhere in the world. Could he (polio) come here? Could he be here? Sure.”

Besides people who are not immunized, Cunningham said, others may also be at risk of developing serious illness from the polio virus.

“If people have a weak immune system because they might be receiving chemotherapy for cancer, they might be getting immunomodulators for things like inflammatory bowel disease or lupus, they would definitely be at risk,” he said, along with transplant recipients.

“Part of the idea of ​​mass vaccination is that you protect the individual but you also protect the people at risk,” Cunningham said.

As students prepare to return to school in the fall, public health experts statewide are encouraging parents to update their children’s vaccinations, saying the risk is not limited to polio.

“Vaccines protect children from 14 diseases by age two,” said Veronica Valentine McNally, president of the association. Franny Strong Foundation and founder vaccination campaign. “If you include the COVID vaccine, there will be 15 diseases … Vaccines are preventative medicine. They keep our community safe.”

Her daughter, Francesca Marie, died of pertussis, also known as pertussis, in 2012. Two years later, the same outbreak in Traverse City forced local officials to do so. Grand Traverse Academy closedIt is an independent school with 1200 students.

“I want to make sure that people see and understand that a lack of vaccination has consequences,” she said.

Contact Christine Jordan Shamus: kshamus@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @kristenshamus.

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