Polio in New York wastewater spurs disaster declaration

Health

(NewsNation) — New York Gov. Kathy Hochul declared a disaster emergency Friday after the poliovirus was discovered in wastewater in a New York City suburb.

According to an executive order from Hochul’s office, polioviruses have been detected in wastewater samples collected in Orange, Rockland, and Sullivan counties in April, May, June, July and August 2022.

Also, a case of paralytic polio was identified on July 21 in an unvaccinated resident of Rockland County who had undertaken no international travel during the incubation period for polio.

Declaring a state disaster emergency allows EMS workers, midwives and pharmacists to administer polio vaccines and allows doctors to issue standing orders for the vaccine. Data on immunizations will be used to focus vaccination efforts where they’re needed the most.

State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett again urged residents to make sure they are immunized, saying “one New Yorker paralyzed by polio is already too many.”

“The polio in New York today is an imminent threat to all adults and children who are unvaccinated or not up to date with their polio immunizations,” Bassett said in a prepared release.

Officials have said that it is possible that hundreds of people in the state have gotten polio and don’t know it. Most people infected with polio have no symptoms but can still give the virus to others for days or weeks.

Polio was once one of the nation’s most feared diseases, with annual outbreaks causing thousands of cases of paralysis. The disease mostly affects children.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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