Montefiore in the News
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Montefiore in the News

July 25, 2022

NEW CITY, N.Y. - Rockland County announced it has detected a confirmed case of polio, the first case of its kind in the United States in nearly 10 years. 

As CBS2's Jenna DeAngelis reports, officials are urging the importance of being vaccinated for polio after an unvaccinated young adult contracted the life-threatening disease.

"We want shots into arms to those who need it," said Rockland County Health Commissioner Dr. Patricia Schnabel Ruppert.

County officials say the resident, who did not travel outside the country, developed symptoms a month ago and is no longer contagious.

"This patient did present with weakness and paralysis," Schnabel Ruppert said.

Health officials are working to determine how the patient was infected and if others were exposed.

"The virus spreads through fecal matter, contaminated water, or through food or drink that goes into the mouth ... and can spread from person to person via contact, including respiratory droplets," Schnabel Ruppert said.

In this case, health officials say it appears the patient had a strain of the virus that could have come from someone who got a live vaccine, something that's available in other countries but not in the U.S. For the past 25 years, the U.S. has used a polio vaccine that contains a dead virus.

"If you've really been fully vaccinated, your risk of contracting the actual infection is exceedingly low," said Dr. Brenda Anosike, a pediatric infectious disease specialist with Children's Hospital at Montefiore. "It was eradicated here in the United States as long as 1979. Any sort of cases that we're seeing in the United States are really, truly imported cases."

In New York state, the polio vaccine is required for all children enrolled in schools.

Rockland County Executive Ed Day is raising concerns about vaccine hesitancy since COVID.

"This summer, we sent 3,000 letters to families with children who are not up to date with their vaccinations ... 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. The fact that it is still around decades after the vaccine was created shows you just how relentless it is. Do the right thing for your child and the greater good of your community and have your child vaccinated now. The polio vaccine has been around since 1955. Clearly it's a safe vaccine," Day said.

Residents are just hoping it doesn't spread.

"They say one person, but you can only imagine if it's more than one and we really don't know," one resident said.

"It is a little disturbing that it out of nowhere just pops up," a Rockland County resident named Mohamed said.

Just four years ago, Mohamed's Rockland County community battled through a measles outbreak. He worries many of his neighbors are vaccine reluctant.

"It worries me because what is next? What's next?" he said.

"[Polio] was a terrible disease that killed so many Americans and folks around the world, and through science and medicine, we have overcome that. We cannot afford to go back," Sen. Elijah Reichlin told CBS2's Astrid Martinez.

Reichlin is helping to fight vaccine misinformation and hesitancy.

"We're all tired of the pandemic, but vaccines save lives," he said.

Rockland County's Department of Health is hosting a polio vaccination clinic at the Pomona Health Complex at 50 Sanatorium Road, Building A on Friday from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Another clinic will take place on Monday, July 25, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.