Experts have detected polio in wastewater in a New York City suburb about a month after the first confirmed case of the disease in the United States in nearly a decade got reported.
The New York State Department of Health announced Monday that public health experts found polio in wastewater in Rockland County, the Hudson Valley Post reported.
“Following the identification of a case of polio in a Rockland County resident, NYSDOH launched wastewater surveillance, among other detection efforts, to check for signs of the virus. Following analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the polio virus was detected in samples from June in Rockland County. These findings underscore the critical importance of vaccination to protect all New Yorkers and New York children against polio,” the department stated.
The recently detected polio in New York’s wastewater is genetically related to two Sabin-like type 2 isolates from Rockland County samples (from early June) and samples from greater Jerusalem, Israel, and another from samples taken from London, U.K., local officials said.
They then clarified that the link did not mean that the individual case in New York had travel history to the U.K. or Israel. The samples from June also suggested that the virus was present in the community even before the diagnosis of the first confirmed case in the country on July 21.
The CDC said in an emailed statement to AOL that the presence of the virus in wastewater could be a sign that more people in the community have polio and are shedding the virus in their stool. However, the agency noted that it’s not clear if the virus is actively spreading in New York or elsewhere in the country.
Poliomyelitis or polio is a highly infectious viral disease largely affecting children under five years old. The virus is typically transmitted from person to person through the fecal-oral route. Once the virus multiplies in the intestine, it can invade the nervous system and cause paralysis, as explained by the World Health Organization (WHO).
After almost a decade of not having polio cases, the U.S. reported its first case last month, saying that the infection was transmitted from someone who had received the oral polio vaccine — a vaccine preparation for polio no longer administered in the country since 2000. Officials said that the virus could have originated outside the country, where the oral vaccine is still in use.
“Polio is a dangerous disease with potentially devastating consequences. In the United States, we are so fortunate to have available the crucial protection offered through polio vaccination, which has safeguarded our country and New Yorkers for over 60 years. Given how quickly polio can spread, now is the time for every adult, parent, and guardian to get themselves and their children vaccinated as soon as possible,” State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said.
In light of the recent discovery, health officials urged unvaccinated New Yorkers who reside, work, go to school, or frequent Rockland County to take precaution since they are at the highest risk of exposure.