New York State health officials have discovered indications of additional cases of poliomyelitis virus in sewage samples from two different counties, leading them to warn that hundreds of people could be infected with the potentially serious virus.
Just two weeks ago, the New York Department of Health reported that the country first case of poliomyelitis in nearly a decade, in Rockland County, upstate New York. Officials said this case occurred in a previously healthy young adult who was unvaccinated and developed leg paralysis. Since then, three positive sewage samples from Rockland County and four from neighboring Orange County have been found and genetically linked to the first case, the health department said in a statement. Press release Thursday, suggesting that the polio virus is spreading within local communities. The most recent samples were collected at two locations in Orange County in June and July and at one location in Rockland County in July.
“Based on past polio outbreaks, New Yorkers should know that for every case of paralytic polio seen, there may be hundreds more infected,” the state’s health commissioner said. Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “Coupled with the latest sewage findings, the Department is treating the single polio case as the tip of the iceberg of a much larger potential spread. As we learn more, what we know is clear: the danger of polio is present in New York City today.”
The health department reiterated that it was still investigating the origin of the virus and said it was not yet clear if the infected person in Rockland County was related to the other cases.
Polio is “a serious and life-threatening disease,” the state health department said. It is highly contagious and can be passed on by people who do not yet show symptoms. Symptoms usually appear within 30 days of infection and can be mild or flu-like. Some infected people may become paralyzed or die.
Before the poliomyelitis vaccine was introduced in the 1950s, thousands of Americans died in polio epidemics and tens of thousands, many of them children, were left paralyzed. After a successful vaccination campaign, poliomyelitis was officially declared eradicated in the United States in 1979.
Unvaccinated New Yorkers are encouraged to get vaccinated immediately, the health department said. Unvaccinated people who live, work, or spend time in Rockland County, Orange County, and the greater New York metropolitan area are most at risk.
Most school-age children have received the polio vaccine, which is a four-dose course, started between 6 weeks and 2 months and followed by an injection at 4 months, one at 6 to 12 months and one between ages 4 and 6. According to the Health Department, about 60 percent of children in Rockland County have received three polio vaccines before their second birthday, as have about 59 percent in Orange County, both lower at 79% statewide.
According to the CDC’s most recent childhood immunization data, about 93 percent of 2-year-olds in the United States had received at least three doses of polio vaccine.
Meanwhile, adults who are unvaccinated would receive a three-dose immunization, and those who are vaccinated but at high risk may receive a lifelong booster shot, according to the health department.
The vaccine is 99% effective in children who receive the full four-dose regimen, health officials said.
“It is concerning that polio, a disease that was largely eradicated by vaccination, is now circulating in our community, especially given the low vaccination rates for this debilitating disease in some areas of our county,” the commissioner said. to Orange County Health, Dr. Irina. Gelman said. “I urge all unvaccinated residents of Orange County to get vaccinated as soon as medically possible.”
Rockland County Health Department Commissioner Dr. Patricia Schnabel Ruppert issued a similar statement, calling on unvaccinated people to get vaccinated “immediately.”
Polio has rarely appeared in the United States since it was declared eradicated more than 40 years ago. The last reported case was reported by a traveler in 2013according to the Associated Press.