New York state health officials have found evidence of additional cases of poliovirus in wastewater samples from two different counties, warning that hundreds of people may be infected with the potentially serious virus.
Just two weeks ago, the New York Health Department reported that thein nearly a decade, in Rockland County, north of New York City. Officials said the case occurred in a previously healthy young adult who had not been vaccinated and developed paralysis in their legs. Since then, three positive wastewater 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 press release Thursday, suggesting the polio virus is spreading within local communities. The latest samples were taken at two locations in Orange County in June and July and at one location in Rockland County in July.
“Based on past polio outbreaks, New Yorkers should know that for every case of paralytic polio seen, hundreds of other people could be infected,” said state health commissioner Dr. Mary T Bassett. “Combined with the latest wastewater 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. York today.”
The health department reiterated that it is still investigating the origin of the virus and said it is not yet clear whether the infected person in Rockland County was linked to the other cases.
Polio is “a serious and life-threatening disease,” the health ministry said. It is highly contagious and can be spread by people who have no symptoms yet. Symptoms usually appear within 30 days of infection and can be mild or flu-like. Some people who are infected can.
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 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 most at risk.
Most school-aged children have received the polio vaccine, a four-dose course, started between the ages of 6 weeks and 2 months and followed by one injection at 4 months, one at 6 to 12 months, and one between the ages of 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 most recent vaccination data from the CDC, about 93% of 2-year-olds in the US had received at least three doses of polio vaccine.
Meanwhile, adults who have not been vaccinated would receive a three-dose immunization, and those vaccinated but at high risk could receive a lifetime booster shot, according to the health department.
The vaccine is 99% effective in children given the full four-dose regimen, health officials said.
“It is concerning that polio, a disease that has been largely eradicated by vaccination, is now circulating in our community, especially given the low vaccination rates for this debilitating disease in certain parts of our county,” Dr. Irina, Orange County Health Commissioner, said Gelmans. “I urge all unvaccinated Orange County residents to get vaccinated as soon as medically possible.”
dr. Rockland County Department of Health commissioner Patricia Schnabel Ruppert issued a similar statement, urging people who have not been vaccinated to get the injections “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 traveleraccording to The Associated Press.