SSM Health doctor ‘hopeful’ polio cases won’t increase in US, citing vaccination efforts

MADISON, Wis. — Following news earlier this month that the polio virus was found in New York City’s wastewater, a doctor from SSM Health said she’s hopeful there will not be an explosion of cases of the virus.

In an interview with News 3 Now on Friday, Dr. Shephali Wulff, SSM Health’s medical director for infectious diseases, said if the country does see an uptick in cases, it may be in pockets but likely not nationwide in the way COVID-19 has spread.

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Still, she cautioned the COVID pandemic has taught people to be humbled by viruses.

“In this country, we’ve had a long history of promoting childhood vaccination. Most school districts do require it, and so my hope is that most of our communities are pretty well protected,” she said.

When asked why the country is seeing cases emerge after a decade, Wulff offered a number of possible explanations, including people moving to the U.S. from other countries and virus spread within communities where childhood vaccination efforts are not as common.

It’s tricky to say how concerned people should be about polio, Wulff said, because most cases can go completely undetected.

One in four cases involves fever and flu-like illness, while one in 100 cases presents as meningitis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Only one in 2,000 cases presents with paralysis.

The U.S. has a readily available supply of polio vaccine, and it’s 99% effective, she said. A booster is available, but it’s typically recommended for people who might be traveling to places where polio is still relevant as well as health care and lab workers.

To check if you’re vaccinated, visit the Wisconsin Immunization Registry.