Three more children diagnosed with polio virus in northern outbreak

New asymptomatic cases discovered among close contacts of initial patient in city of Safed; Health Ministry warns of potential spread

File: A research assistant prepares a PCR reaction for polio at a lab at Queens College on August 25, 2022, in New York City. (Angela Weiss/AFP)
File: A research assistant prepares a PCR reaction for polio at a lab at Queens College on August 25, 2022, in New York City. (Angela Weiss/AFP)

Three more children have been diagnosed with polio after an 8-year-old in the northern city of Safed tested positive for the virus on Monday.

A Health Ministry statement on Thursday said that the three children had been in contact with the infected child, who was unvaccinated, and tested positive for the polio virus despite not having any symptoms.

The ministry did not reveal the vaccination status of the three children who tested positive Thursday.

“In recent months, there is evidence of a spread of polio in many sewage systems in Israel, which has more than 150,000 children unvaccinated against the virus,” the statement warned.

The Health Ministry said it would continue to monitor and update the public, and encouraged people to maintain good hygiene practices to stymie any outbreak.

Polio is a viral disease that mainly affects children and can cause disability, paralysis, and death. Today, polio vaccinations are standard for children and are an effective preventive measure, but vaccine skepticism has enabled the disease to pop up from time to time.

An Israeli child gets the polio vaccine at the health ministry office in Beer Sheva on August 5, 2013. (Dudu Greenspan/Flash 90)

In March 2022, the first case of polio in 33 years was discovered in Israel, leading to a small outbreak and a vaccination drive to combat the disease.

The finding landed Israel on the World Health Organization’s Polio Eradication Initiative’s list of countries with outbreaks, after being declared polio-free in 1988.

British authorities reported finding evidence in sewage that the virus was spreading in June 2022, though no infections were identified in people. At the time, the government said all children in London ages 1 to 9 would be offered a booster shot.

A month earlier in the US, an unvaccinated young adult suffered paralysis in his legs after being infected with polio, New York officials revealed. The virus also showed up in New York sewers, suggesting spread.

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