Highlights

  • An unvaccinated young adult from New York recently contracted polio
  • United States' first polio case in a decade
  • The person developed symptoms a month ago

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New York reports 1st US polio case in nearly a decade

In 1979, polio was declared eliminated in the US, meaning there was no longer routine spread. Rarely, travelers have brought polio infections into the US. The last such case was in 2013. 

An unvaccinated young adult from New York recently contracted polio, the first US case in nearly a decade, health officials said on Thursday.

Officials said the patient, who lives in Rockland County, had developed paralysis. The person developed symptoms a month ago and did not recently travel outside the country, county health officials said.

It appears the patient had a vaccine-derived strain of the virus, perhaps from someone who got live vaccine — available in other countries, but not the US — and spread it, officials said.

The person is no longer deemed contagious, but investigators are trying to figure out how the infection occurred and whether other people may have been exposed to the virus.

Most Americans are vaccinated against polio, but unvaccinated people may be at risk, said Rockland County Health Commissioner Dr. Patricia Schnabel Ruppert. Health officials scheduled vaccination clinics nearby for Friday and Monday, and encouraged anyone who has not been vaccinated to get the shots.

“We want shots in the arms of those who need it,” she said at a Thursday press conference announcing the case.

Polio was once one of the nation's most feared diseases, with annual outbreaks causing thousands of cases of paralysis — many of them in children.

Vaccines became available starting in 1955, and a national vaccination campaign cut the annual number of US cases to less than 100 in the 1960s and fewer than 10 in the 1970s, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In 1979, polio was declared eliminated in the US, meaning there was no longer routine spread.

Rarely, travelers have brought polio infections into the US. The last such case was in 2013, when a 7-month-old who had recently moved to the US from India was diagnosed in San Antonio, Texas, according the federal health officials. That child also had the type of polio found in the live form of vaccine used in other countries.

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