According to health officials, poliovirus was detected in sewage samples in New York

“We’re dealing with a trifecta. Covid is still very common. Polio, we found polio in our sewage. And we’re still dealing with the monkeypox crisis,” New York City Mayor Eric Adams said Friday on CNN’s New Day. “We respond to threats as they arise, and we stand ready to deal with them with the support of Washington, DC.”

In a statement about the sewage discovery, New York City officials stressed the urgency of polio immunization, especially for those living in the New York metro area.

Most people in the United States are protected from polio through vaccination. A primary series of three vaccines provides 99% protection. However, unvaccinated and undervaccinated people are vulnerable.

“For every case of paralytic polio diagnosed, hundreds more may go undiagnosed,” said state Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “Finding of poliovirus in New York sewage samples alarming, but not surprising.”

The virus is most commonly spread through feces and, less commonly, when a person infected with poliovirus sneezes or coughs. According to the World Health Organization, about 90% of people with polio do not have any visible symptoms. Some have flu-like symptoms such as sore throat, fever, fatigue and nausea.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1 in 25 people will get viral meningitis, an infection of the lining of the spinal cord and/or brain.
About 1 in 200 people will be paralyzed and unable to move parts of their body or will experience weakness in their arms, legs, or both. Even children who have fully recovered from the initial illness may develop muscle pain and weakness years later.

Paralysis can lead to permanent disability and death because it can affect the respiratory muscles.

City Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Wasan said that given the prevalence of polio in our communities, “there is simply nothing more important than vaccinating our children to protect them from this virus, and if you are an unvaccinated or under-vaccinated adult, be please choose to get the vaccine now.”

CDC investigates polio in New York

The sewage finding follows the identification of a case of paralytic polio in a Rockland County, New York, resident on July 21, and detections in May, June and July sewage samples from Rockland and Orange counties.

A CDC official told CNN this week that the case in Rockland County was “just the tip of the iceberg” and suggested “there must be several hundred cases in the community.”

Last week, the agency sent a team of detectives to Rockland County to investigate the case and help with vaccinations. A public health leader who met with the team told CNN that investigators are “very nervous” because polio “could very quickly get out of control and we could have a crisis.”

Before the invention of the vaccine, polio was considered “one of the most feared diseases in the United States,” according to the CDC. In the 1940s, an average of more than 35,000 people a year became disabled in the United States. When the polio vaccine became available in 1955, the number of cases dropped significantly.
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The last case in the USA was registered almost ten years ago.

Officials say routine vaccination coverage among New York children has dropped since 2019, noting that only 86.2 percent of New York children ages 6 months to 5 years have received three doses of the polio vaccine, nearly 14 percent incomplete protected .
Some children missed vaccinations due to the pandemic. Others live in small groups of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in New York, particularly in Rockland County, who have decided not to vaccinate their children. Other members of the religious Jewish community in Rockland have made efforts to work with health officials to educate those who refuse to vaccinate their children.
Some neighborhoods in New York have significantly lower vaccination rates than the rest of the city. In Williamsburg, for example, only 56.3% of children are vaccinated. In Battery Park City – 58%. In Bedford-Stuyvesant/Ocean Hill/Brownsville, the figure is 58.4%. In the country, the vaccination rate of children is almost 93%.

“The risk to New Yorkers is real, but protection is very simple: get a polio vaccine,” said Wasan, the city’s health commissioner. “Polio is completely preventable and its re-emergence should be a call to action for all of us.”

CNN’s Elizabeth Cohen, Daniel Herman and John Bonifield contributed to this report.

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