NY declares disaster emergency after polio found in Long Island wastewater

New York has declared a state disaster emergency over polio.  The move is to increase resources to fight polio in the state as the virus has been found in more wastewater.  

A polio outbreak in New York has caused major concern among health officials, as the latest location to test positive for it is in Nassau County on Long Island.

Health officials continue to push people to get immunized against the polio virus.

"On polio, we simply cannot roll the dice," State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said. "If you or your child are unvaccinated or not up to date with vaccinations, the risk of paralytic disease is real."

Polio in NY:  What to know

After a case of paralytic polio was diagnosed in an unvaccinated person in Rockland County, the state health department started wastewater surveillance to check for signs of the virus in sewage water in communities – as people infected with poliovirus shed virus in their stool.

Analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found poliovirus in samples collected from Rockland County, Orange County, Sullivan County, New York City, and now, Nassau County.

Health authorities say the sample collected in August from Nassau County has been genetically linked to the case of paralytic polio previously identified in Rockland County, further evidence of expanding community spread. All samples reported are samples of concern, meaning they are types of poliovirus that can cause paralysis in humans.

How Does Polio Spread?

Polio is considered very contagious and spreads mostly from person to person, through contaminated water and via fecal particles.

Health officials say the virus also can spread through droplets from an infected person's cough or sneeze, though that is less common.

Polio Symptoms

According to the Centers for Disease Control, roughly 1 out of 4 people with poliovirus infections will have flu-like symptoms that can include:

  • Sore throat
  • Fever
  • Tiredness
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Stomach pain

These symptoms usually last 2 to 5 days, then go away on their own.

A smaller proportion of people will develop other, more serious symptoms that can affect the brain and spinal cord:

  • Meningitis occurs in about 1 to 5 out of 100 people with poliovirus infection, depending on virus type
  • Paralysis or weakness in the arms, legs, or both occurs in about 1 out of 200 people to 1 in 2000 people, depending on virus type