May 28, 2024


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

Just two weeks ago, the New York Department of Health reported the nation’s figures first case of polio in nearly a decade, in Rockland County, upstate New York. the officials said This case occurred in a previously healthy, unvaccinated young adult who developed paralysis in his 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 statement. Press release on Thursday, suggesting that the polio virus is spreading in local communities. The newest samples were taken from two sites in Orange County in June and July and one site in Rockland County in July.

“Based on past polio cases, New Yorkers should be aware that for every one case of paralytic polio seen, there may be hundreds of other people who are infected,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “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 know is clear: the risk 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 whether the infected person in Rockland County is connected to the other cases.

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

Before polio vaccine introduced in the 1950s, thousands of Americans died in polio epidemics 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 immediately, the health department said. Unvaccinated people who live, work or spend time in Rockland County, Orange County and the greater New York metropolitan area are at greatest risk.

Most school-age children have received the polio vaccine, which is a four-dose course starting between 6 weeks and 2 months, followed by one shot at 4 months, one at 6 to 12 months, and one shot 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 have about 59% in Orange County — both below the 79% rate in the entire state.

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

Meanwhile, unvaccinated adults will receive a three-dose immunization, and those who are vaccinated but at high risk can receive a lifetime booster shot, according to the health department.

The vaccine is 99 percent 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 the low vaccination rates for this debilitating disease in some areas of our county,” Orange County Health Commissioner , Dr. Irina 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, calling on unvaccinated people to get vaccinated “immediately.”

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


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