New York Health Department says hundreds of people may be infected with polio virus

New York Health Department says hundreds of people may be infected with polio virus


Polio found in sewage samples in 2 New York counties

02:04

New York state health officials found indications of additional cases of the polio virus in sewage samples from two different counties, prompting them to warn that hundreds of people may be infected with the potentially serious virus.

Just two weeks ago, the New York Department of Health reported that the nation first case of polio in nearly a decade, in Rockland County, north of New York City. Officials said the case occurred in a previously healthy young adult who was unvaccinated and developed paralysis in the legs. Since then, three positive sewage samples from Rockland County and four from neighboring Orange County have been discovered and genetically linked to the first case, the health department said in a news release Thursday, suggesting the virus of polio is spreading within local communities. The most recent samples were taken from two locations in Orange County in June and July and one location in Rockland County in July.

“Based on past polio outbreaks, New Yorkers should know that for every case of paralytic polio seen, there may be hundreds of other people infected,” said Dr. Mary T. Bassett, state health commissioner. “Coupled with the latest sewage findings, the Department is treating the single case of polio as just the tip of the iceberg of a much larger potential spread. As we learn more, what we do know is clear: the danger of polio.” is present in New York today.

The health department reiterated that it is still investigating the origin of the virus and said it is not yet clear if the person infected in Rockland County was related to the other cases.

Polio is “a serious and life-threatening disease,” the state health department said. It is highly contagious and can be transmitted by people who do not yet have symptoms. Symptoms usually appear within 30 days of infection and can be mild or flu-like. Some people who are infected can be paralyzed or die.

Before the polio vaccine was introduced in the 1950s, thousands of Americans died in polio outbreaks and tens of thousands, many of them children, were left paralyzed. After a successful vaccination campaign, polio was officially declared eradicated in the US in 1979.

Unvaccinated New Yorkers are encouraged to get vaccinated right away, the health department said. Unvaccinated people who live, work, or spend time in Rockland County, Orange County, and the New York metropolitan area are at greatest risk.

Most school-age children have received the polio vaccine, which is a four-dose cycle, beginning between 6 weeks and 2 months of age and followed by one injection at 4 months, one at 6 and 12 months and one between ages 4 and 6. According to the health department, about 60% of children in Rockland County have received three polio shots before their second birthday, as well as about 59% in Orange County, both below 79% statewide.

According to the CDC’s most recent childhood immunization data, about 93% of 2-year-olds in the US had received at least three doses of polio vaccine.

Meanwhile, adults who aren’t vaccinated would get a three-dose immunization, and those who are vaccinated but at high risk can get a booster shot for life, according to the health department.

The vaccine is 99% effective in children who receive the full four-dose regimen, health officials said.

“It is concerning that polio, a disease that has been largely eradicated through vaccination, is now circulating in our community, especially given low vaccination rates for this debilitating disease in certain areas of our county,” said Dr. Irina, Orange County Health Commissioner. Gelman said. “I urge all unvaccinated Orange County residents to get vaccinated as soon as medically possible.”

Rockland County Health Department Commissioner Dr. Patricia Schnabel Ruppert issued a similar statement, asking people who aren’t vaccinated to get them “immediately.”

Polio has rarely appeared in the US since it was declared eradicated more than 40 years ago. The last reported case was brought by a traveler in 2013according to The Associated Press.

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