Spate of polio outbreaks worldwide puts scientists on alert
Poliomyelitis (Commonly known as Polio) is caused by one of three types of polioviruses, all of which are members of the Enterovirus genus. It was one of the most frightening diseases of the early 20th century, paralyzing hundreds of thousands of children every year, causing disability for life and several deaths. Until Dr. Salk developed the polio vaccine in 1955, about 16,000 cases of paralytic polio occurred each year in the USA, including significant outbreaks in 1916 in New York City killing over 2,000 people, and the worst recorded US outbreak of 1952 that killed over 3,000.
Although vaccines have contained the virus very well with only two cases of polio-related paralysis reported, the unusual reporting of poliovirus in wastewater samples from New York, London, and Jerusalem, alarmed public health experts to change their perception of thinking such diseases as if confined only to the developing world. Furthermore, since Polio causes irreversible paralysis in less than 1 in 200 infected people, two reported cases are ‘Too Many’ to alarm us and suggest that many people might have been infected. Also, since this virus is very good at finding unvaccinated individuals, the reports of very low childhood polio vaccination rates in some New York communities are highly concerning.