This Is How the Polio Crisis Could Spin Totally Out of Control

Polio has reappeared in the United States for the first time in a generation. On July 18, the New York State Department of Health told the U.S. Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention it had detected the poliovirus, which can cause paralysis or death in a small percentage of cases, in a young adult from Rockland County outside New York City.

New York authorities subsequently detected the virus in sewage in Rockland and neighboring Orange County—evidence of transmission in the local community.

That first case prompted authorities in the U.K. and Israel to increase their surveillance—they found polio too.

A polio crisis could be brewing. But despite describing polio as “one of the most feared diseases in the U.S.,” the CDC is trying to maintain total government control over testing for the poliovirus. Only the feds and certain states that already do polio testing would be equipped to monitor for the pathogen.

In withholding the testing materials and protocols, private labs—such as Massachusetts-based surveillance startup BioBot—would need to detect and track the virus, the CDC risks allowing the virus to spread unnoticed in some communities, while also limiting study of a potential outbreak.

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