Will polio come back to the USA?
September 4, 2013 9:05 AM   Subscribe

Given that there are parts of the world still fighting the battle against polio, and an increasing number of people in the US choosing to opt out of vaccinations for their children, is there a chance polio will return to the United States?

I've been wondering this for awhile now. I can't imagine it hasn't been researched by scientists and other public health officials. Please send me in the direction of trusted sources for educated thoughts on this topic.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero to Health & Fitness (4 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Trends in the risk of U.S. polio outbreaks and poliovirus vaccine availability for response.

Although the risk of poliovirus introduction remains real, widespread transmission of polioviruses appears unlikely in the U.S., given high routine coverage. However, clusters of un- or underimmunized children might create pockets of susceptibility that could potentially lead to one or more paralytic polio cases. We found that the shift toward combination vaccine utilization, with limited age indications for use, and other current trends (e.g., decreasing proportion of the population with immunity induced by live polioviruses and aging of vaccine exemptor populations) might increase the vulnerability to poliovirus reintroduction at the same time that the ability to respond may decrease.
posted by dawkins_7 at 9:07 AM on September 4, 2013

Best answer: Here's a fact sheet from the CDC emphasizing the importance of continued vaccination for preventing the return of polio to the U.S.
posted by Jahaza at 9:10 AM on September 4, 2013

Best answer: From Scientific American: The Hidden Threat That Could Prevent Polio’s Global Eradication
Polio's latest redoubts are “chronic excreters,” people with compromised immune systems who, having swallowed weakened polioviruses in an oral vaccine as children, generate and shed live viruses from their intestines and upper respiratory tracts for years.
Philip Minor, deputy director of the U.K.'s National Institute for Biological Standards and Control, describes the biomedical nightmare: Wild polioviruses stop circulating. Countries cut back on vaccination efforts. A chronic excreter kisses an unvaccinated baby, and the baby goes to day care. “And zappo,” he adds, “it's all over the place, with babies drooling all over each other. So you could see a scenario where polio would come back from a developed country.”
Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan are the three remaining polio endemic countries, and the WHO lists 223 reported cases in 2012, but they note that "as long as a single child remains infected, children in all countries are at risk of contracting polio."
posted by filthy light thief at 9:16 AM on September 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers. I was hoping for more of a "No, you're crazy and paranoid!" consensus, but I guess the truth hurts.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:31 PM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

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