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New York Health Officials Warn For Every One Case Of Polio, Hundreds Could Be Infected

Officials have issued an urgent immunization call as polio spreads in the state. 

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Dr. Alfredo Carpineti

Senior Staff Writer & Space Correspondent

clockAug 9 2022, 11:25 UTC
A artist's impression of the polio virus
The first case of polio in the US since 2013 was confirmed in July 2022, but there could be hundreds more. Imgae credit: nobeastsofierce/Shutterstock.com

New York State health officials have warned that the known polio cases in the state may be the "tip of the iceberg", and that hundreds more may be infected, urging those that haven't been vaccinated yet to get immunized as soon as possible. 

A team from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been deployed to investigate as the New York State Department of Health reports the identification of seven more samples of the polio virus in wastewater in two counties. It follows the discovery of polio in wastewater in Orange County after an unvaccinated adult contracted the disease in Rockland County in July 2022, the first confirmed case in the US since 2013. The new samples are all from Orange County and Rockland county and are evidence of local transmission. 

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"Based on earlier polio outbreaks, New Yorkers should know that for every one case of paralytic polio observed, there may be hundreds of other people infected," State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said in a statement

"Coupled with the latest wastewater findings, the Department is treating the single case of polio as just the tip of the iceberg of much greater potential spread. As we learn more, what we do know is clear: the danger of polio is present in New York today. We must meet this moment by ensuring that adults, including pregnant people, and young children by 2 months of age are up to date with their immunization – the safe protection against this debilitating virus that every New Yorker needs."

The Department of Health is urging adults and children alike to get immunized and stop the spread of the disease, which can lead to irreversible paralysis in one in 200 infections and death in one in 20 of those. 

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When considering the vaccination rate among children who have received three doses of the vaccine by their second birthday, Rockland County has a vaccination rate of 60.34 percent and Orange County has a rate of 58.68 percent. That is significantly lower than the statewide average of 78.96 percent.

Polio is a serious disease and very contagious disease, and it can spread without the infected individual knowing they have it.


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