Polio in Hudson Valley: Can You Get it if Vaccinated?
Residents in Orange and Rockland counties are being warned that hundreds of residents may be infected with the polio virus. What does that mean if you've already been vaccinated?
Polio is a devastating disease that affects the nervous system and can result in paralysis or death. In the early 1950s, the United States saw its worst outbreak of the disease which left over 3,000 children dead and 21,000 with paralysis. Polio was seen as an especially cruel disease because innocent children were among the most affected by the deadly virus.
Wasn't polio eradicated?
Up until recently, the United States had all but claimed victory over polio. Thanks to vaccines and advances in medicine, polio was no longer viewed as a threat. It was thought that once the disease was thwarted in other countries around the world it would, indeed, finally be eradicated. In 2018, there were just two countries with reported cases. Now that number is on the rise.
Why has polio returned?
After seventy years, many people have forgotten just how devastating the polio outbreak of 1952 was. This, coupled with false stories questioning the safety of proven vaccines, has caused some people to forgo the polio shot. Experts have been warning that this devastating disease could easily return if we didn't keep up vaccinations and now here we are.
Who's at risk?
Polio is no joke. While most cases are mild, it's estimated that up to 5% of children who contract paralysis from polio will die. One-third of adults who suffer paralysis also die from polio.
How is polio contracted?
Those who have the polio virus may never get sick but can still pass it over to others for up to 10 days after they become infected through saliva droplets. Their stool can also continue to be infected with polio for up to six weeks. Wastewater samples in Orange and Rockland counties show the polio virus present in sewage samples, which means hundreds of residents are most likely infected with polio.
If I'm vaccinated, can I still get polio?
The good news is that the revolutionary vaccine developed by Dr. Jonas Salk in 1955 is very effective. The three-dose course provides 99% immunity from the disease. However, doctors warn that all three doses must be taken. Patients are not protected if only one or two doses are administered.
What if I'm not vaccinated?
Health experts and county officials are urging anyone who is not vaccinated for polio to get their vaccines started as soon as possible. The polio vaccine has been administered to over 90 percent of Americans for over 70 years and there has not been any documentation of any adverse reactions from the three-dose immunization.
Hudson Valley Post reports that the Orange County Health Commissioner, Dr. Ira Gelma is urging all unvaccinated Orange County residents to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
It is concerning that polio, a disease that has been largely eradicated through vaccination is now circulating in our community, especially given the low rates of vaccination for this debilitating disease in certain areas of our County.