Paralytic poliomyelitis: everything you need to know about the disease

After detecting a first case of paralyzing poliomyelitis in Rockland County on July 21, New York State has totaled 7 positive cases of the hyper-contagious disease in recent days, despite an alert issued on Thursday August 4 by the state health department.

Rapid contamination and very serious effects on the health of patients. Virtually eradicated in developed countries for a few decades thanks to progress in vaccination, polio has made a comeback in the foreground 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. Not having been vaccinated against this disease, the young man was affected by paralysis in one of his legs. The latter having not traveled in recent months, the hypothesis of contamination abroad has been ruled out by the investigators.

Seven positive samples in Rockland County

On Thursday, August 4, the New York State Department of Health alerted the public to the presence of poliovirus in sewage at various locations in the city, warning of a potential outbreak to come and highlighting the importance of vaccination.

“Sequence analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that seven positive samples from both Rockland County (three) and Orange County (four) are genetically linked to the individual case of previously identified paralytic poliomyelitis in a resident of Rockland County. These findings provide further evidence of local – not international – transmission of a polio virus that can cause paralysis and potential community spread,” the health department said.

“Hundreds of cases” expected

Faced with the high contagiousness of the disease, the New York State Commissioner of Health predicted many infections to come in the region. “Based on past polio outbreaks, New Yorkers should know that for every case of paralyzing polio observed, there may be hundreds more infected,” he said.

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


Paralytic poliomyelitis is described by the Pasteur Institute as a “highly contagious disease caused by a virus (poliovirus) which invades the nervous system and which can cause irreversible paralysis within a few hours”. The virus is transmitted by the faecal-oral route, most often through contaminated water.

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

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

Vaccination promoted by Bill Gates

A fight for vaccination that was supported by billionaire Bill Gates in order to eradicate poliomyelitis on the planet once and for all. “The global eradication strategy must be fully supported to protect people everywhere,” assured the founder of Microsoft on Twitter, in response to these new cases.

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