Aug 5, 2022 - Health

New York health officials find more evidence of polio transmission

A photomicrograph of the cervical spinal cord affected by polio type-III virus captured in 1990.
A photomicrograph of a cervical spinal cord affected by polio type-III virus captured in 1990. Photo: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

The New York State Department of Health urged people on Thursday to get vaccinated against polio, saying it has found further evidence of local transmission of the virus in the state.

Why it matters: The department said it has identified polio, a highly contagious virus that can lead to permanent disability and death, in seven wastewater samples taken from two counties, Rockland and Orange, in the last two months.

The big picture: So far, at least one person in Rockland County has tested positive for polio, though officials believe the virus likely originated abroad based on the strain of the virus that was detected.

  • It was the first polio case discovered in the U.S. in years, setting off warnings for health practitioners to be on the lookout for additional cases, Axios' Ivana Saric reports.

What they're saying: The New York State Department of Health said Friday that the additional positive wastewater samples "provide further evidence of local—not international—transmission of a polio virus that can cause paralysis and potential community spread, underscoring the urgency of every New York adult and child getting immunized, especially those in the greater New York metropolitan area."

  • "Coupled with the latest wastewater findings, the Department is treating the single case of polio as just the tip of the iceberg of much greater potential spread," New York's Health Commissioner Mary Bassett said in a statement.
  • Based on earlier polio outbreaks, New Yorkers should know that for every one case of paralytic polio observed, there may be hundreds of other people infected," Bassett added.
  • "As we learn more, what we do know is clear: the danger of polio is present in New York today. We must meet this moment by ensuring that adults, including pregnant people, and young children by 2 months of age are up to date with their immunization – the safe protection against this debilitating virus that every New Yorker needs."

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