Israel Records First Polio Case in 33 Years, Doctors Fear ‘Outbreak’ After Jerusalem Sewage Tests

© AP Photo / DAN BALILTYFILE - In this Wednesday, March 10, 2010 file photo, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man walks in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo
FILE -  In this Wednesday, March 10, 2010 file photo, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man walks in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo - Sputnik International, 1920, 12.03.2022
Israeli doctors have confirmed the first clinical case of polio in the country in more than 30 years, and now fear more cases may not yet have been detected after testing Jerusalem’s sewage system.
A four-year-old girl in Jerusalem was confirmed diagnosed with Poliomyelitis on Sunday, the Israel Ministry of Health announced. The girl had not been vaccinated against the contagious virus, which is most commonly spread between humans by fecal matter, although in certain circumstances the live virus contained in the vaccine can also cause infections.
While the disease was common in the early and mid-20th century, aggressive vaccination campaigns dramatically reduced global cases, and several parts of the globe have since been declared polio-free. According to the World Health Organization, in 1988 - the last year polio was detected in Israel - there were 350,000 polio cases worldwide. By 2017, just 22 new cases were detected globally.

There is no cure for polio, but the vaccine can prevent infection. Most people who contract the virus suffer no symptoms, while about 25% suffer fever and sore throat. A much smaller amount develop pains, while just 0.5% suffer the debilitating muscle weakness and paralysis for which the disease is most notorious.

The Israeli child diagnosed on Sunday had already suffered muscle weakness and was released from the Hadassah Medical Center to get support in a specialist hospital.
In addition, the Health Ministry reported two additional preliminary positive cases that have not yet been confirmed. One was from a contact of the girl’s, and another was in an unrelated stool sample sent to the lab, according to the Times of Israel.
In addition, the Health Ministry said it had detected polio in the capital city’s sewage system, suggesting an even greater spread of the dangerous virus.
Hebrew University epidemiologist Prof. Hagai Levine told the paper the cases could be “the tip of the iceberg,” noting that “when you find one case of polio, you actually have dozens or hundreds.”
Another polio case was found in Lilongwe, Malawi, in February, according to the WHO. It was the first wild case in Africa in over five years, and health officials claimed it was imported from Pakistan, where the disease is still found. A few days later, Malawi declared an outbreak and set up testing sites, although no additional cases have been announced.
“As long as wild polio exists anywhere in the world all countries remain at risk of importation of the virus,” Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO regional director for Africa, said in a statement.
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