(WXYZ) — Oakland County’s wastewater will be tested for signs of polio infections.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has expanded its testing to select communities after a man in New York was diagnosed with paralytic polio earlier this year.
Polio is caused by the poliovirus, and it’s a very contagious viral illness. It can be very disabling and life-threatening. It’s known to cause paralysis, which can happen if the virus infects a person’s spinal cord.
This paralysis can be temporary or permanent. About 1 in 200 infections leads to irreversible paralysis, and in some cases, paralysis causes death. Among those who are paralyzed, between 2% and 10% will die. That’s because their breathing muscles are affected and they can’t breathe.
Now, why are health officials concerned and checking Oakland County’s wastewater? It’s to see if polio is spreading, especially in communities with low vaccination rates.
Polio is typically spread through person-to-person contact. Most infected people do not show any symptoms or have flu-like symptoms. In rare cases, infected patients can shed the virus in their stool. And this could affect residents who are not vaccinated.
There is no specific treatment for polio and there is no cure. However, physical therapy can help with limb weakness and might improve long-term outcomes.
But the good news is that we have a safe and effective vaccine. Most children get four doses in childhood starting at two months of age. It’s called IPL and stands for inactivated poliovirus vaccine. Since the year 2000, IPL has been the only polio vaccine used in the U.S.
Before that, the OPL, or oral poliovirus vaccine, was administered. That vaccine contains a weakened version of the virus and is still used in many parts of the world. But it can cause polio in about 1 in 2.4 million people, whereas the inactivated poliovirus vaccine doesn’t use a live vaccine. And it protects 99 out of 100 people who receive all the recommended doses.
Most adults don't need the polio vaccine if they were already vaccinated as a child. But talk to your doctor if:
- You plan to travel to areas of the world where polio is common
- You’re a lab or health care worker who handles samples or patients with poliovirus
You can get what’s called a “lifetime IPV booster.” This is a single-booster dose that lasts a lifetime. Overall, the risk of polio here in the U.S. is low. But if you’re unvaccinated, you’re definitely more at risk, and I encourage you to get the polio vaccine.
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