Paralytic poliomyelitis: what we know about viral infection cases in New York

After a first case of debilitating poliomyelitis was discovered in Rockland County on July 21, New York State has recorded a total of 7 positive cases of the hyper-contagious disease in the past few days, despite a reported increase on Thursday, April 4.

Rapid contamination and very serious impact on patient health. Virtually eradicated in developed countries for several decades thanks to advances in vaccination, polio has come back to prominence in the United Kingdom, but also in the United States, in recent weeks.

On Thursday, July 21, the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (Cidrap) confirmed the first case of paralytic poliomyelitis in Rockland County, New York. Because he was not vaccinated against this disease, the young man was struck with paralysis in one of his legs. Since the latter had not traveled in recent months, the hypothesis of contamination abroad was ruled out by investigators.

Seven positive samples in Rockland County

On Thursday, August 4, the New York State Department of Health and Human Services alerted the public to the presence of the poliovirus in sewage at various locations around the city, warning of a possible outbreak and stressing the importance of vaccination.

“Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sequence analysis revealed that seven positive specimens from both Rockland County (three) and Orange County (four) were genetically linked to a single case of previously identified paralytic poliomyelitis in a Rockland County resident in connection . These results provide further evidence of local – not international – transmission of a poliovirus that can cause debilitation and potential community spread,” the health department said.

“Hundreds of cases” expected

Given the high contagiousness of the disease, the New York State Health Commissioner predicted many infections in the area. “Based on past polio outbreaks, New Yorkers should know that for every case of crippling polio seen, there could be hundreds more infected,” he said.

As a reminder, a hundred cases have been identified worldwide since 2015, while before the start of the global vaccination campaign, the disease affected more than 600,000 children a year.


Paralyzing poliomyelitis is described by the Pasteur Institute as a “highly contagious disease caused by a virus (poliovirus) that invades the nervous system and can lead to irreversible paralysis within a few hours”. The virus is transmitted fecal-orally, most commonly through contaminated water.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), this disease, which primarily affects children under the age of 5, leads to irreversible paralysis in one in 200 cases.

The first symptoms that appear in case of contamination are fatigue, headache and fever. The next phase may be characterized by vomiting and stiffness in the neck, see paralysis of one or more limbs.

Vaccination promoted by Bill Gates

A vaccine fight backed by billionaire Bill Gates to eradicate polio from the planet once and for all. “The global eradication strategy must be fully supported to protect people everywhere,” the Microsoft founder tweeted in response to these new cases.

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