TAMPA, FL — The poliovirus has returned to the United States.
“We are having an outbreak right now,” said Dr. Thomas Unnasch, USF’s Distinguished Professor of Health Sciences.
Virus was detected in New York. So far, at least one of her has been paralyzed as a result of this outbreak.
“I think there’s a good chance it could spread to other states,” said Unnasch.
Health officials have warned of the spread of community-acquired infections.
“The real issue here is making sure our children and everyone is fully vaccinated against polio,” said Unnasch.
Many polio cases are asymptomatic, so experts believe New York may already have hundreds of cases.
“What this means is that, despite all the efforts, we are not yet able to eradicate polio worldwide,” says Unnasch.
Polio was once one of the country’s most feared diseases, paralyzing thousands.
It mainly affects children.
“What you really don’t want is for your child to end up with an iron lung, or to wear horrible braces like the ones you saw in the 1940s pictures, or to die because of it,” Unnasch said. .
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most people who get the virus don’t have any symptoms, but about one in four will show symptoms such as muscle aches, diarrhea, fever, sore throat, nausea and stomach pain. can be
“Five percent will end up with some kind of serious illness, and about 1 percent of those will actually be paralyzed for life as a result of the infection,” says Unnasch.
Recent poliovirus detections have necessitated more wastewater monitoring.
“They’re starting to do it. We didn’t test regularly because we thought we were eliminated in the United States,” said Unnasch.
He believes the virus could be found in Florida if wastewater monitoring for the virus begins elsewhere.
“I think they will increase it, but even if they do increase, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a significant number of positive samples. Given , you can imagine some of that being seen everywhere,” said Unnasch.
The good news is that anyone who gets vaccinated is protected.
“If you’re fully vaccinated, there’s absolutely nothing to worry about,” says Unnasch.
But the virus is a threat to all unvaccinated adults and children.
“There are people who are not vaccinated. If they are not vaccinated, they are more susceptible to these diseases and children can end up with this dreadful outcome, just as they did 100 years ago,” Unnasch said. increase. .
Doctors are urging people to check their vaccination records and their children’s records to make sure they have been vaccinated.
“People really need to do this. We need to get herd immunity to a level where it’s no longer a problem,” said Unnasch.