MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL (08/24/2022) — Polio has reappeared in the U.S. According to the New York State Department of Health, a case was identified in an unvaccinated individual from Rockland County, New York, in July. Poliovirus has also been detected in the state’s wastewater samples. In Minnesota, a symptomatic polio case hasn’t been reported  since 2008 according to the Minnesota Department of Health

University of Minnesota Medical School and M Health Fairview infectious disease expert Jill Foster, MD, discusses the recent spread of polio. 

0:29 — What do we know about the current state of polio?
Dr. Foster We know that in New York there has been one case of poliomyelitis, an infection with polio that results in paralysis. We know that the polio virus has been found in wastewater from at least May and suspect that it has been around even longer. The majority of cases are without symptoms or are mild with non-specific symptoms, such as fever, sore throat and headache. As this case shows us, it may result in serious disease with permanent sequelae.

0:18 — How is polio spread? 

Dr. Foster: Polio spreads from contact primarily from fecal material — either by contaminated water or from touching or consuming something that was handled by someone who didn’t wash their hands. It can also be contracted from someone who is acutely ill with it by secretions such as saliva or by a cough or sneeze.

0:06  — How concerned should the general public be about polio?
Dr. Foster At this point, it is something to be aware of but not lose sleep over.

1:14 — What can people do to protect themselves from polio?

Dr. Foster: There are three things that can be done. First, make sure your immunizations are up to date, especially for children. For most adults who were immunized in childhood, there is still some protection - not necessarily from being infected but from experiencing serious problems. Second, wash your hands thoroughly and frequently. Touching a contaminated surface and then touching your face can transmit the virus. You could also come in contact with someone who hasn’t washed their hands and has handled food that you then ingest or touch something that they touched. Last, be aware of who you are around — avoid contact with individuals who are visibly ill when possible. If you think you might be ill, stay away from people, especially if they have a compromised immune system. It’s also important for parents to watch what their children are putting in their mouths that might be contaminated. 

Dr. Jill Foster is a pediatric infectious diseases physician with the University of Minnesota Medical School and M Health Fairview. Her expertise is in prevention and treatment of viral diseases in addition to mobilizing public health and healthcare systems in the areas of prevention and screening.

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