In the face of new evidence of a potential spread of polio in their state, New York health officials issued a new and more urgent call on Thursday for unvaccinated children and adults to get inoculated against the debilitating virus.
The polio virus has now been found in seven wastewater samples near Rockland and Orange counties in New York, which are next to each other and are located to the north of New York City.
One person has tested positive for polio so far: an unvaccinated adult in Rockland County who had paralysis due to the virus.
The state health commissioner said in a statement that recent polio outbreaks suggest there could be hundreds of cases for every case of paralytic polio reported.
When you couple this most recent finding with the previous one, the Department takes the case of polio as the only one instance, when it might be many, she added. As we learn more, what we do know is clear: polio is a danger here in New York.
According to The Associated Press, the polio patient in Rockland County is the first to contract the virus in nearly a decade.
When the polio virus was discovered in the wastewater of Rockland County in early June, it was also found in the wastewater of two areas in Orange County and in July samples from Rockland County.
In Rockland County, three samples have tested positive, while in Orange County, four samples have tested positive. Genetically linked to polio that paralyzed Rockland County resident.
“Polio is a local virus, not an international one, which causes paralysis and spreads in communities,” the announcement said.
Officials with the state health department said that the latest environmental findings do not necessarily prove that a Rockland County resident was the source of the transmission. Health officials are working with international, national, and local authorities to determine the source of the virus.
On Monday, New York health officials announced that in a similar vein, the Global Polio Laboratory Network, which includes the CDC and World Health Organization, has determined that the Rockland County case is related to samples taken from Greater Jerusalem as well as London’s environment.
On Thursday, New York State Department of Health officials urged unvaccinated people, including kids aged 2 months or older, pregnant women, and those who had not completed their polio vaccine series previously, to get the shot right away. Anybody who lives, works, attends school, or visits Rockland County, Orange County, or the greater New York metropolitan area is at the highest risk of exposure to measles right now, health officials said.
The warning notes that most children of school age are already vaccinated, based on New York health guidelines. If you live in New York and are not sure if you’ve been vaccinated, consult your health care provider to get a vaccination or booster.
As of Aug. 1, the polio vaccination rate in Rockland County is about 60% and in Orange County it is around 59%, as compared with the statewide average of 79% among children who have received three polio vaccinations before their second birthday.
This large polio circulation in our community must be put to an end because polio was eradicated from the United States in 1979, said Patricia Schnabel Ruppert, DO, Rockland County’s health commissioner, in the statement.
A child or adult who is unvaccinated should receive their first polio vaccine as soon as possible, she said. “The Rockland County Department of Health can provide vaccinations to residents.”
The polio vaccine is available at immunization clinics in her department, either by appointment or during certain hours. The department’s polio information page can be visited by residents to learn more and make an appointment.
The virus that causes Polio is highly contagious and can be life-threatening. People can pass the virus to each other even if they are not sick. New York health officials are growing high concern about the transmission of the disease without symptoms among the public after the outbreak of polio that caused paralysis.
Polo symptoms, which can be mild and flu-like, can take up to 30 days to appear. If a person is infected with the virus during this time, he or she can transmit it to others. There are some cases of polio that can result in paralysis or death. Approximately 5% to 10% of paralysis cases end in death due to crippled breathing muscles.
While there is no cure for polio, prevention is possible with vaccines. Following CDC guidelines, all children should receive four doses of the polio vaccine. They receive the first dose when they are between 6 weeks and 2 months old, and they need to receive the second at 4 months, the third at 6 to 18 months, and the final dose between the ages of 4 and 6.
Adults who are unvaccinated or who are unsure of their vaccination status should receive three doses. Anyone who has been inoculated with one or two doses of the vaccine needs to take the remaining doses no matter how long it has been since their first dose.
Adults with an increased risk of polio exposure and who have had the full polio vaccine in the past, should receive one lifetime booster.
Orange County’s wastewater samples that identified the poliovirus were initially collected from the city’s wastewater treatment plants for COVID-19 testing.
“It is frustrating that a disease, polio, that has been almost eradicated through vaccinations, is now present in our community, given the low rates of vaccinations for this crippling disease in certain areas of our county.” Dr. Irina Gelman, the health commissioner for Orange County, commented in the statement.
“I encourage any unvaccinated Orange County residents to get vaccinated as soon as possible,” she said.