By Liam Reilly, CNN
New York state health officials are urging people to get vaccinated against polio after the virus was identified in wastewater samples in another county.
The four wastewater samples were collected in July and August in Sullivan County, northwest of Orange County. CNN previously reported that polio was identified in wastewater samples from Rockland County, Orange County and New York City. The state Department of Health announced Friday that the Sullivan County samples were genetically linked to the previously identified case of polio in Rockland County, where a man was diagnosed with paralytic polio.
Health officials warned on Friday of expanding community spread of the virus.
“One New Yorker paralyzed by polio is already too many, and I do not want to see another paralytic case,” State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said in a statement. “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. Every New Yorker, parent, guardian, and pediatrician must do everything possible to ensure they, their children, and their patients are protected against this dangerous, debilitating disease through safe and effective vaccination.”
Polio can cause incurable paralysis and death, but most people in the US are protected by vaccination. However, vaccination rates in several New York counties are low. As of August 1, Rockland County’s polio vaccination rate was 60.34%, the release shows. Orange County’s is 58.68% and Sullivan County’s 62.33%. New York’s statewide polio vaccination average is 78.96% for children who have received three polio immunizations before their second birthday.
The state’s health department, in partnership with local health authorities and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, launched wastewater surveillance after a young adult was diagnosed with polio in Rockland County in June.
So far, the state has identified only one case of polio. However, many polio cases are asymptomatic, and individuals can spread the virus even if they aren’t experiencing symptoms.
Earlier this month, Dr. José Romero, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said the polio case identified in New York is “just the very, very tip of the iceberg” and an indication there “must be several hundred cases in the community circulating.”
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