Polio Has Been Detected In New York City Wastewater Samples

By Bill Galluccio

August 12, 2022

Poliovirus, an RNA virus from Picornaviridae family that causes polio disease
Photo: Getty Images

Health officials in New York are concerned after the polio virus was detected in wastewater samples in New York City. The findings suggest that the virus has moved beyond Rockland County, where a man became paralyzed after contracting the first known case of polio in nearly a decade. The virus has also been detected in wastewater samples in nearby Orange Country.

While most people who contract polio are asymptomatic, they can still spread the virus to others.

“For every one case of paralytic polio identified, hundreds more may be undetected,” New York Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said. “The detection of poliovirus in wastewater samples in New York City is alarming but not surprising.

Most adults were vaccinated against polio as children, but vaccination rates have slipped during the coronavirus pandemic. Nearly 80% of people in New York have been immunized against polio, though certain areas have much lower rates than the rest of the state. In Rockland County, for example, the vaccination rate is 60%. It is slightly lower in Orange County, where 58% of the residents are vaccinated against polio.

Health officials are urging everybody to ensure they are vaccinated against polio to help prevent the virus from spreading.

“The risk to New Yorkers is real, but the defense is so simple – get vaccinated against polio,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan. “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.”

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