Polio Virus Detected in Water Samples of Rockland County


The New York State Health Department today pleaded with all New Yorkers, including pregnant women and children 2 months and older, to get vaccinated for polio “right away” if they have not previously been. The urging comes nearly two weeks after an unvaccinated man from Rockland County contracted the virus and developed paralysis.

Following that first U.S. case in nearly a decade, the department said today that analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention detected polio in wastewater samples in Rockland County.

See full statement below from the New York State Department of Health regarding recent developments:

The New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) today updated New Yorkers on polio in New York State. Following the identification of a case of polio in a Rockland County resident, NYSDOH launched wastewater surveillance, among other detection efforts, to check for signs of the virus. Following analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the polio virus was detected in samples from June in Rockland County. These findings underscore the critical importance of vaccination to protect all New Yorkers and New York children against polio.

“Polio is a dangerous disease with potentially devastating consequences,” State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said. “In the United States, we are so fortunate to have available the crucial protection offered through polio vaccination, which has safeguarded our country and New Yorkers for over 60 years. Given how quickly polio can spread, now is the time for every adult, parent, and guardian to get themselves and their children vaccinated as soon as possible.”

As part of ongoing surveillance efforts, New York wastewater samples are shared with the Global Polio Laboratory Network (GPLN), which includes CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO). GPLN confirmed that the case in New York is genetically linked to two Sabin-like type 2 (SL2) isolates, collected from the early June samples from Rockland County and samples from greater Jerusalem, Israel as well as to the recently-detected VDPV2 from environmental samples in London, UK. New Yorkers should know that this does not imply that the individual case identified in New York has travel history to Israel or the UK.

NYSDOH continues to work with global, national, and local public health authorities—including the Rockland County Department of Health (RCDOH) and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (NYCDOHMH)—to aggressively assess the spread of the virus and ensure prevention measures, particularly vaccination clinics, are in place – as the best way to keep New York polio-free is to maintain high immunity across the population through vaccination.

All New Yorkers who are unvaccinated, including children 2 months and older, those who are pregnant, and people who have not completed their polio vaccine series previously, should get vaccinated right away. Unvaccinated New Yorkers who live, work, go to school in, or visit Rockland County are at the highest risk of exposure. Rockland County currently has a polio vaccination rate of 60.5% among two year-olds compared to the statewide average of 79.1%.*

Polio is a serious and life-threatening disease. Spread from person-to-person, polio is very contagious, and an individual can transmit the virus even if they aren’t sick. Symptoms, which can be mild and flu-like, can take up to 30 days to appear, during which time an infected individual can be shedding virus to others. Some polio cases can result in paralysis or death.

While there is no treatment or cure for polio, it is preventable through safe and effective vaccination. A core component of CDC’s standard child immunization schedule and required by NYSDOH for all school-aged children, those already vaccinated are considered to be at lower risk. According to CDC, inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV), which is the only polio vaccine that has been given in the United States since 2000, protects 99% of children who get all the recommended doses.

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