Deadly Virus Detected Under New York - Governor Declares Bio-Emergency
Barely a month after New York state officials warned that polio was making a comeback, the virus has been detected in a new location.
Wastewater from Long Island’s Nassau County has been found to contain the virus, according to a state Department of Health news release.
Democratic New York Gov. Kathy Hochul declared a state disaster emergency on Friday.
“On polio, we simply cannot roll the dice,” state Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett said in the release. “If you or your child are unvaccinated or not up to date with vaccinations, the risk of paralytic disease is real.”
“Polio immunization is safe and effective — protecting nearly all people against disease who receive the recommended doses. Do not wait to vaccinate,” she said.
In a news release issued last month, Bassett warned that “New Yorkers should know that for every one case of paralytic polio observed, there may be hundreds of other people infected.”
Although at the time there was only one confirmed case in Rockland County, Bassett said “the Department is treating the single case of polio as just the tip of the iceberg of much greater potential spread.”
Hochul’s order expands the number of medical professionals able to give the polio vaccine and requires immunization data to be sent to the state.
The Rockland County case remains the only polio infection. However, the virus has been found in wastewater in Rockland, Orange and Sullivan counties as well as in New York City.
Testing shows the virus was circulating in the state as early as April, according to WNBC-TV.
Officials are calling for an increase in vaccinations against polio.
Polio vaccination rates among children under 2 in three of the counties where the virus has been found are below the state average of 79 percent. Rockland County’s rate is 60 percent, the rate in Orange County is 59 percent and Sullivan County’s rate is 62 percent.
The New York Times reported that Nassau County’s vaccination rate of 79 percent equals the state average, and New York City exceeds the state average with 86 percent of children under 5 vaccinated.
State officials noted Friday that of 57 samples of polio collected from wastewater between May and August, 50 were of the same strain as the Rockland County virus.
The disease can be spread when an individual who received the oral polio vaccine transmits a weakened form of the virus to an unvaccinated person.
A CNBC report from August indicated that the strain of polio found in Rockland County is similar to a strain found in Britain and Israel.
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only about 25 percent of those infected with the virus have any symptoms at all, which are similar to those of the flu. A far smaller percentage of people experience symptoms that impact the brain or spinal cord and could lead to paralysis.
According to the website History of Vaccines, the virus that causes polio was first identified in 1908, 14 years after the disease was first noticed in the U.S. A vaccination against polio was developed in 1954, and in 1994 the disease was considered eradicated in the Western hemisphere.
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