07.02.2023

Polio found in New York City wastewater

New York City officials have detected polio in the city’s wastewater, confirming at least one person carried the virus in the city recently.

Surveillance for the virus was initiated after a confirmed case was found nearby Rockland County last month. Wastewater surveillance in Orange County — also just outside the city’s Bronx borough — also detected at least two polio samples since June.

Officials have warned that there could be hundreds — potentially — thousands of undiagnosed cases circulating around the state. Because a majority of cases are either asymptomatic or very mild it is likely that a vast majority are going undetected.

In response, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) deployed a team to Rockland County earlier this week to investigate the outbreak and help vaccinate the local community. Both Rockland and Orange counties have only vaccinated 60 percent of residents — some of the lowest rates in the state.

The Big Apple has a vaccination rate of 86 percent, still far below the threshold of 95 percent considered necessary to avoid a widescale outbreak.

While an incidence of polio in America’s largest city may be terrifying, a vaccinated person is not considered to be in danger. Many Americans had to be vaccinated in order to go to school, and there is no booster necessary. More than 90 percent of the U.S. population has received the polio vaccine.

‘The risk to New Yorkers is real but the defense is so simple — get vaccinated against polio,’ Dr Ashwin Vasan, the City’s health commissioner, said in a statement.

‘With polio circulating in our communities there is simply nothing more essential than vaccinating our children to protect them from this virus, and if you’re an unvaccinated or incompletely vaccinated adult, please choose now to get the vaccine.

‘Polio is entirely preventable and its reappearance should be a call to action for all of us.’

Officials did not confirm when the sample was collected. There is also no way to tell whether it was a person visiting the city or a resident.

The polio case found in Rockland earlier this year came as a shock. It was the first case detected in the nation in over a decade, and could potentially be the first U.S.-borne case since before the turn of the century.

It was found in a man in his 20s who experienced a severe case, with his symptoms including paralysis.

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