Polio outbreak linked to oral vaccine not used in US

Polio once paralyzed more than 15 thousand people in the United States every year.
Published: Aug. 22, 2022 at 4:33 PM CDT
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CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (KFVS) - The current strain of polio, which is being detected in New York, did not come from a vaccination given in this country.

But now that it is here, we should take precautions.

“There is a rebound underway,” Robin Cole, a longtime member of Cape Girardeau’s Rotary Club, said.

The Rotary Organization has spent more than 35 years working to eradicate polio.

Cole said wastewater detection is an important part of monitoring the spread of the virus, even in states that don’t currently have cases.

“With airline travel, we all live in a single world today,” Cole said. “That infection can be here in only two hours on an airplane.”

Two labs at the University of Missouri do all of the SARS-CoV-2 wastewater monitoring for the state.

Marc Johnson is a microbiology professor at the University of Missouri’s School of Medicine and does that testing.

According to Johnson, Missouri is not testing wastewater for polio.

“I’m gearing up to be able to, but in order to but in order to do testing from a sewer shed, we have to have buy-in from our collaborators on the ground,” Johnson said.

Johnson said there are a lot of unknowns.

“It’s just really a question of how many people have it. If there’s a lot more than we expected, then it could very well be here,” Johnson said.

But the origin, Cole said, could not have come from the United States.

The vaccination it’s stemming from hasn’t been used here in 22 years.

“The oral vaccine given somewhere else in the world infects someone here, and then the outbreak of polio is, unfortunately a negative feedback loop from the vaccine, the oral vaccine itself,” Cole said.

The national polio vaccination rate is 93 percent. In Missouri, it’s 90 percent.

Cole said that number needs to change.

“Don’t wait until you hear the gunfire of polio infecting people,” Cole said. “The time to vaccinate every child is right now.”