Polio virus found in NYC wastewater

State health officials say that sewage samples from New York City have identified the presence of polioviruses.  They say that indicates a risk of community transmission in the city.

These findings follow the identification of a case of paralytic polio among a Rockland County resident on July 21, and the detection of poliovirus in wastewater samples collected in May, June, and July from Rockland County and Orange County.

Polio can lead to permanent paralysis of the arms and legs and even death in some cases.

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

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The State Health Department says it is responding urgently, continuing case investigation and aggressively assessing spread.

They say the best way to keep polio-free is through immunization.

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

Only 86.2% of NYC children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years old have received 3 doses of the polio vaccine – nearly 14% remain not fully protected.

Of particular concern are neighborhoods where coverage of children aged six-months to five-years-old with three doses of polio vaccine is less than 70%, putting these children at risk of contracting polio.  

Most adults do not need the polio vaccine because they were already vaccinated as children.