New York City health officials say poliovirus found in wastewater from Brooklyn and Queens

Polio virus particle, computer illustration.

Katerina Cohn | Scientific Photo Library | Getty Images

New York Gov. Katie Hochul extended a state of emergency declared in connection with the spread of poliovirus after sewage tests in Brooklyn and Queens came back positive.

Hochul said the state’s state of emergency will remain in effect until at least November 8 to support the state’s efforts to increase polio vaccination rates.

The New York State Department of Health, in a statement Tuesday, said a sewage sample that tested positive in Brooklyn and Queens was genetically linked to a virus that paralyzed an unvaccinated adult in Rockland County over the summer.

An unvaccinated adult from Rockland County is the only known case of paralysis in the US so far, but state health officials said hundreds of people are likely to be shedding the virus without symptoms.

“These results put a worrying exclamation mark on what we’ve already seen: unvaccinated people are at real and unnecessary risk,” New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett and New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Wasan said in a joint statement. .

So far, a total of 70 sewage samples in the New York metropolitan area have tested positive for poliovirus, according to New York state health officials. The virus has been found in wastewater from Kings, Nassau, Orange, Queens, Rockland and Sullivan counties.

More than 28,000 doses of polio vaccine have been administered since July in Rockland, Orange, Sullivan and Nassau, according to government health officials.

Most people are vaccinated against polio as children and are not at risk, but New York City has struggled with low immunization rates in some communities for years.

In Rockland County, the vaccination rate for children under two years of age has dropped from 67% in 2020 to 60% in 2022. according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In some areas of Rockland, only 37% of children in this age group received the vaccine.

State, national and global health authorities believe that the poliovirus found in New York City originated in a country that still uses the oral polio vaccine. The oral vaccine uses a live virus, which in rare cases can mutate and cause disease.

The US stopped using the oral vaccine over 20 years ago. Now he injects an inactivated vaccine containing a killed virus that cannot mutate. An inactivated vaccine is very effective in preventing the disease but does not stop the transmission of the virus.

This is an evolving story. Please stay tuned for updates.

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