New York Gov. Kathy Hochul has declared a state of emergency after announcing that traces of the polio virus had been found in wastewater in Long Island.
The new emergency order will expand vaccination efforts in the state and will allow pharmacists, midwives and EMS workers to administer the polio vaccine and will require healthcare providers to report polio immunization data to the state. Officials will attempt to use this data to track down the most vulnerable areas and control the spread of the virus.
“On polio, we simply cannot roll the dice,” State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett said in a statement. “If you or your child are unvaccinated or not up to date with vaccinations, the risk of paralytic disease is real. I urge New Yorkers to not accept any risk at all. Polio immunization is safe and effective — protecting nearly all people against disease who receive the recommended doses.”
The declaration from Hochul came after officials in Nassau County revealed that recent wastewater surveillance tests found a positive trace of the polio virus. In addition, wastewater samples collected from Rockland County, Orange County, Sullivan County and New York City have also found traces of the polio virus.
The state began testing wastewater after a Rockland County resident caught the virus in July, the first known case of polio in the United States since 2013.
State officials urge any unvaccinated individuals to get their polio vaccines. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people who receive all recommended doses of the polio vaccine are 99-100% protected.
Polio is a highly contagious and life-threatening disease and normally spreads from person to person or through contaminated water. The virus was declared eliminated in the U.S. in 1979 after an aggressive inoculation campaign, meaning that the virus no longer routinely spreads in the U.S. Polio is capable of causing paralysis in humans.
The statement from the New York Department of Health states that “about 1 in 100 individuals will develop severe disease, including permanent paralysis. Of those paralyzed, 2-10 percent die when their breathing muscles become immobilized. Based on evidence from earlier polio outbreaks, health officials estimate that for every one case of paralytic polio observed, there may be hundreds of other people infected.”
Children are recommended to get four doses of the polio vaccine, starting with the first dose at six months of age and the last completed between four and six years old.
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