Polio – a contagious and preventable childhood disease – thought to be on the verge of eradication, is making headlines again overseas. While there are no cases here, that could change said one local pediatrician.
“We haven’t seen an endemic case of polio in the United States since 1979,” said Minu George, MD, interim chief of the division of general pediatrics at Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York, part of the North Shore-LIJ Health System.
That leads parents to a false sense of security, she said.
“A lot of parents are opting out from vaccinating their children. I’ve had parents tell me that we don’t see polio in the United States so there’s no reason for them to vaccinate their children against polio,” said Dr. George. “If we’re not diligent about polio, it’s going to come back.”
The World Health Organization recently declared a global health emergency because of polio outbreaks across 10 countries in Africa and the Middle East.
Polio is a contagious, viral illness that usually affects children under age 5. In its most severe form, polio causes paralysis, difficulty breathing and even death.
The disease was largely eliminated from the Western hemisphere following the introduction of a vaccine in 1955.
Most people should get the polio vaccine when they are children. Children should receive four doses of the polio vaccine the first at 2 months, then 4 months, 6-18 month, and a booster at 4-6 years.