Is Polio Resurging? Readers’ Questions Answered by Infectious Disease Expert

Infection Control Today, Volume 26, Issue 8

Infection Control Today® asked Matt Pullen, MD, the questions from our readers about the NY polio patient.

With a new paralytic case of polio in New York State, both infection preventionists and the public have questions about what they should know and what to tell those they serve. To get answers for these questions, Infection Control Today® (ICT®) spoke with Matt Pullen, MD, who is a clinical researcher for the medical school at the University of Minnesota, where he is also an assistant professor of infectious disease and international medicine. He is also employed at the Fairview Hospital System.

Pullen discusses what polio is, whether polio is underdiagnosed, and vaccination details for older adults. “Having 3 doses of vaccine by your second birthday confers about 95% protection,” Pullen explains. “There are catch up schedules for people who are older than 2 years old who haven't received all those doses that doctors can use to help someone quickly get immunity they need for protection. But the main people who should be concerned are the ones who are unvaccinated. Some of that's by choice, in which case, I would urge them to reconsider that choice and get vaccinated. Some of [the unvaccination] is in people who have immune deficiencies, specifically B cell depleting syndromes, that make it difficult to mount any kind of vaccine-related immunity, so they should definitely be protected.”

For adults over 50 years, who were vaccinated as children, if they completed the entire series, they are protected. However, Pullen said, “If an adult is unsure if they've had their full series, or if they had an incomplete primary series, you can, like I said before, there's a catch up schedule to get 3 doses of vaccine, and most guidelines recommend if you're unsure of your schedule, or if you know that you didn't complete it, to go ahead and do a 3 core series. Just to be sure that you have that full complete primary series, [the individual] would get 2 doses about 4 weeks apart, and then your third dose [would be] 6 to 12 months after that second one. So within the course of about a year to a year and a half, you could have a complete vaccine series and full protection.”

Polio is also 1 of 3 disease threats facing the US–polio, COVID-19, and monkeypox.