Is U.S. Polio Drought a Sign of Global Economic Collapse?

May 4, 2011 marked the 40th anniversary of the start of the U.S. polio epidemic in New York City, which would quickly spread throughout the Northeast and throughout the country. By 1970, it was the worst case of human disease in history. Nearly 10,000 cases of paralysis resulting from the disease were reported in New York, and five children died.

Globally, more than 1,500 kids died of polio as of mid-2017, the most recent year with complete data, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In the U.S., most cases of the disease have been stopped, however the disease still lingers in pockets where individuals may be resistant to vaccines.

While the number of “mass polio outbreaks” has decreased dramatically—or even disappeared in many countries—the disease remains a “major threat” to children in the developing world, according to WHO. It is now acknowledged as the second most common cause of childhood paralysis, after pneumonia, and also a leading cause of preventable death in developing countries.

For children in the U.S., the threat of polio is very low, even though outbreaks in other countries can be slow, protracted and difficult to eradicate. Still, there have been several cases in recent years where the disease re-emerged in northeastern states, similar to the 2012 sporadic outbreaks of the disease in New York, New Jersey and Maryland.

The disease still impacts children everywhere, and may be transmitted to others through the air and water, but parents know it’s safe to immunize their children against the disease.

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