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Officials in a New York county that has confirmed the first case of polio in nearly a decade are urging residents to ensure their vaccinations are up-to-date.
The official, a Rockland County resident, is an unvaccinated adult, but they did not detail the person’s condition.
Speaking at a press conference, Rockland County Executive Ed Day said the individual who tested positive for polio was no longer contagious. He said officials are now focused on vaccinations and figuring out whether or not anyone else has been impacted.
Vaccines became available starting in 1955, and a national vaccination campaign cut the annual number of U.S. cases to less than 100 in the 1960s and fewer than 10 in the 1970s, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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In 1979, polio was declared eliminated in the U.S., meaning there was no longer a routine spread. Rarely, travelers with polio have brought infections into the U.S., with the last such case in 2013.
Day said the reason polio hadn’t been seen for so many years was because of the wide availability of “safe and effective vaccines” which decreased polio from nearly 400,000 cases in the 1980s to only 42 worldwide in 2016.
Most people who contract polio, are symptomatic – such as the individual who contracted it in Rockland County. But in severe cases, it can cause severe paralysis, Day said.
“While the pandemic is winding down, its impact is still being felt,” Day said, before citing a UNICEF report on the dramatic decline in childhood vaccinations worldwide.
“Many of you may be too young to remember polio, but when I was growing up, this disease struck fear in families, including my own,” Day said. “My dad was a combat veteran in World War Two. The mere mention of polio, anywhere in the house, would make him look ashen white. The fact that it is still around decades after the vaccine was created shows you relentless this disease can be – but again, how effective vaccinations can be.”
Day urged schools to be more proactive in ensuring that students are vaccinated to prevent spreading other diseases.
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“Do the right thing for your child and the greater good of your community and have your child vaccinated now,” Day said.
Fox News’ Julia Musto and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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