Reports that a man in his 20s in New York state contracted polio and detection of poliovirus in wastewater samples in two New York counties leave many wondering how this could happen in a country that has eliminated the disease. This is a good lesson in how easily infectious diseases spread and underscores the importance of protecting people around the world with vaccines.
As officials gather details of this particular case, some important facts are known. This individual was not vaccinated against polio. Those who have been vaccinated — the vast majority of Americans — are considered to be at very low risk for polio-related paralysis. This new case in New York is a stark reminder that until all forms of polio are wiped out, and the disease is eradicated, people in every country remain at risk.