New York state and city health officials said Friday that the poliovirus, which causes paralytic polio, was found in New York City sewage samples, suggesting the disease was spreading in the city.
His statement came after the initial discovery of the virus in wastewater in neighboring countries in May, June and July. A man in Rockland County, north of New York City, was confirmed to have polio last month.
Health officials fear the detection of the polio virus in New York City could lead to more cases of paralytic polio. Polio can cause permanent paralysis of the arms and legs and even death.
In a statement Friday, State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said, “The detection of poliovirus in wastewater samples in New York City is worrying, but not surprising. … Adults and children are polio-free. The best way to keep safe and effective vaccinations.”
Spread of the virus poses a risk to non-vaccinated people, but a three-dose course of the vaccine provides at least 99% protection. Health officials are urging non-vaccinated adults to get vaccinated and asking parents to vaccinate their children if they haven’t.
The Department of Health reports that most adults in New York City were vaccinated as children.
Overall, about 86% of children 5 and younger in New York City have been vaccinated, although the city’s health department said some neighborhoods were lagging.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports polio was once one of the nation’s most horrific diseases, with annual outbreaks causing thousands of cases of paralysis, many of them in children.
Vaccines became available in 1955, and a national vaccination campaign reduced the annual number of US cases to less than 100 in the 1960s and less than 10 in the 1970s.
Some information for this report has been obtained from The Associated Press.