Poliovirus has been detected in wastewater samples from New York City, according to the New York State Department of Health, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. The agencies believe this is indicative of a local circulation of the virus.
State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett commented on the findings: “For every one case of paralytic polio identified, hundreds more may be undetected. Dr. Basset described the finding of the virus as “alarming,” but “not surprising.”
The Commissioner further stated that the NY State Health Department is already working with both local and federal agencies in order to respond “urgently.” Dr. Ashwin Vasan, the New York City Health Commissioner, reminded citizens that the “defense” against contracting polio is so simple – just get vaccinated.
The NYC Health Commissioner urged both unvaccinated children and any adults who might be completely immunized against polio to do so immediately. He also said that the reappearance of the polio virus “should be a call to action for all of us.”
The wastewater samples’ positive nature prompted the announcement, and it is likely those samples were taken after an unvaccinated Rockland County resident tested positive for paralytic polio. There were seven different wastewater samples taken, both around New York City and the two counties north of the Big Apple.
Health officials particularly admonished pregnant women and children in New York City to get fully vaccinated against polio. They reminded citizens that polio “is completely preventable.”
The Centers for Disease Control is partnering with the New York State Health Departments as well as health centers in the city of New York to surveil the waste-waters of the area.
Health officials also said that it is important for adults who have only had one or two doses of the polio vaccine to finish getting the recommended doses as soon as possible.
There are three shots in the series of polio vaccinations. Adults who are unsure of the vaccination status may check with their health department in order to determine if they have had the recommended doses.
Children are given the initial dose of the polio vaccine at six weeks of age. The second dose is given at two months of age and a third booster is given at the age of four.
Nearly fourteen percent of New York City’s children are not fully vaccinated. Parents who had their children vaccinated at the recommended dosage have been remiss to do so, and so vaccination rates have fallen by fourteen percent since 2019. This statistic is a measure of children who have received any of the recommended doses of any vaccine, not simply polio.
Again, while there is no cure for polio, it is completely preventable through full vaccination.