Is the U.S. Open a Super Spreader Event?

US Open 2022 does not require polio or monkeypox vaccinations
Fans at the US Open
U.S. Open
New York City (Vax Before Travel)

While the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is encouraging flu shots and COVID-19 boosters to prevent the spreading of infectious disease, a worldwide sporting event is taking place in New York City that may impact the health of about 600,000 fans, staff, and players arriving from various countries.

The U.S. Open 2022 tennis tournament is underway in Queens, New York, and has removed the 2021 requirement to present proof of COVID-19 vaccination for most attendees.

But, given recent news from New York, should this two-week-long event require vaccinations for two-vaccine preventable diseases, monkeypox and polio?

New concerns have arisen because poliovirus has been detected in wastewater systems in the region, both in the southern part of the State of New York (NY) and New York City (NYC).

And NY health agencies suggest that at-risk people get vaccinated to enhance their protection.

In a press release on August 26, 2022, the New York State State Health Department (NYSDOH) began urging immunization and warning of expanding community spread of poliovirus.

NYSDOH issued an update confirming sequencing analysis performed by CDC has now detected poliovirus in four samples from Sullivan County, which are genetically linked to the case of paralytic polio previously identified in Rockland County, NY.

Already, poliovirus had been identified in samples collected in Rockland County, Orange County, and NYC.

And all samples reported are classified as 'samples of concern,' meaning they are types of poliovirus that can cause paralysis in humans.

Based on evidence from earlier polio outbreaks, health officials estimate that for every one case of paralytic polio observed, there may be hundreds of other people infected.

"One New Yorker paralyzed by polio is already too many, and I do not want to see another paralytic case," State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett commented in the press release.

"Polio in New York today is an imminent threat to all adults and children who are unvaccinated or not up to date with their polio immunizations."

While poliovirus is not a respiratory spreading disease, it can be spread from person-to-person.

Polio is very contagious, and an individual can transmit the virus even if they aren't sick, and asymptomatic spread is a serious concern among N.Y. health officials. 

And in NYC, the monkeypox virus (MPXV) outbreak in NYC has been the most intense, with about 2,888 cases confirmed as of August 26, 2022.

Most of NYC's cases are in Manhattan (1,211), in the 25-44 age group.

The NYC Health Department continues to say ....anyone can get and spread monkeypox.

Eligible New Yorkers who may have been recently exposed to the MPXV can get the Jynneos vaccine.

Getting vaccinated after a recent exposure may reduce the chance of you getting monkeypox, and it can reduce symptoms if you get it.

NYC Health says it is currently prioritizing first doses to get more people protected and help stop the spread while the vaccine supply remains low.

If you have received the first dose at an NYC Health Department clinic, you will be contacted about scheduling the second dose in the coming weeks.

However, the CDC and U.S. FDA have confirmed the Jynneos® vaccine offers the best protection from MPXV two weeks after the second dose.

This information indicates that MPXV-vaccinated people remain at risk during the weeks between doses.

According to the CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky's interview with Yahoo/Fiance on August 26, 2022,  "Maybe one common thing that I will say is that disease is prevented in all of these with vaccination," she said.

"And among the things that we need to do is send the message, for polio specifically, the thing that prevents paralytic disease and polio is vaccination, and it works nearly 100%," Dr. Walenksy added.

Furthermore, NYC is confronting its worst mosquito outbreak in years.

And some of these mosquitoes are spreading the West Nile virus, which can become a severe disease for certain people.

Unfortunately, there is not a U.S. FDA-approved vaccine targeting the WNV.

'Our goal is to ensure that your 2022 experience is both enjoyable and safe,' says the US Open website.

'We will continue to follow CDC, New York State, and New York City COVID-related guidelines and advice from our medical consultants to establish and implement health and safety protocols for the 2022 US Open.'

Furthermore, Governor Kathy Hochul updated New Yorkers regarding the state's progress in combating COVID-19 on August 26, 2022.

"With school season approaching, it is vital that New Yorkers remain vigilant in keeping themselves and their loved ones safe and healthy," Governor Hochul said in a press release. 

"Take advantage of the vaccine by staying up to date on doses."

And if you visit the U.S Open over the next two weeks, Mount Sinai is the official hospital and medical services provider sponsor.

Their experts lead the development of policies around injury prevention and are conducting educational outreach to promote the health benefits of tennis. 

Note: This article was written by Don Hackett, a life-long tennis advocate, and frequent US Open attendee. This article was updated on August 28, 2022, for clarity and links.

Vax-Before-Travel publishes fact-checked, research-based vaccine news curated for mobile readership.

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Article by
Donald Hackett