Poliovirus types known to cause paralysis have now been found in wastewater samples from five counties in New York state, and genetic tests confirm community spread
Joshimer Binas / Alamy
New York declared a state of emergency over poliovirus on 9 September. Officials have now detected the virus – which was largely believed to be eradicated in the US – in five counties, including New York City.
“On polio, we simply cannot role the dice,” said Mary Bassett, the New York State Health Commissioner in a press release on Friday. “If you or your child are unvaccinated or not up to date with vaccinations, the risk of paralytic disease is real.”
In July, an unvaccinated man from Rockland County became the first person in the US to be diagnosed with paralytic polio in nearly a decade. Officials say he contracted the disease from someone who was inoculated with an oral version of the polio vaccine that hasn’t been administered in the US since 2000. This vaccine contains a weakened version of the poliovirus, which can circulate and infect people who are unvaccinated.
Following this case, state health officials in New York began analysing wastewater samples as people infected with polio shed the virus in their stool. They have now identified polio in samples in five counties, and genetic testing has confirmed community spread.
The state of emergency will increase resources for vaccines, including allowing emergency medical service workers, midwives and pharmacists to administer the vaccine. Healthcare providers are also now required to send polio immunisation data to the state’s department of health so officials can determine where to focus vaccine efforts. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the polio vaccine is safe and more than 99 per cent effective at preventing infection in people who complete the vaccine series.
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