Following the report by U.S. officials that an unvaccinated American was diagnosed with the country’s first case of polio in nearly a decade, Canadian Infection experts have sued for vaccination.
According to official records, Health Canada has not recorded a case of the virus in more than 25 years, but infectious disease experts say they always have their “ears up and eyes open for vaccine-preventable illnesses like polio” that continue to circulate elsewhere in the world.
Harping on the development, Dr. Vinita Dubey, associate medical officer of health for Toronto Public Health, said “Any imported infection is just a flight away.”
While the polio vaccine is part of children’s standard set of shots, Dubey said some parents are opting not to vaccinate their kids and the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed vaccination for others.
According to her, that’s creating a renewed risk of vaccine-preventable diseases as people return to international travel after a two-year break.
It was stated that global polio vaccination efforts were put on hold for part of that time, compounding the problem.
Reports have it that a single case of polio triggers a public health response and is reportable under international health regulations. By the time a case of paralysis from polio is diagnosed, many more people have likely been infected.
It’s imperative to note that Poliovirus is highly contagious and usually causes no symptoms or mild symptoms such as low-grade fever, malaise, nausea, diarrhea and sore throat.
Records have it that Polio cases in Canada decreased markedly with the introduction of immunization programs in the 1950s, when up to 5,000 children had polio per year. The last case of wild poliovirus in Canada occurred in 1977, while cases associated with oral vaccines continued until 1995.
According to health experts, Polio infection can occur from the spread of wild virus or from transmission of the virus after a child receives the oral polio vaccine, which Canada stopped administering in 1996 but remains in use in many other countries.
With summer travel in full swing, experts said both adults and children should have their routine immunizations up to date and check whether they need additional vaccines for their destination.
“Vaccine hesitancy is another effect of the pandemic,” said Dr. Valérie Lamarre, an infectious disease pediatrician at St. Justine Hospital in Montreal, “It definitely didn’t improve the situation with vaccine-preventable diseases.”
Even though the case of polio in the U.S. is not a threat to Canada, Lamarre said that doesn’t mean it should be ignored.
She said “We’re going to see these cases pop up from time to time. This one just means, ‘Wake up people. Get your vaccines’”.
“These diseases are preventable.”
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