Polio found in New York wastewater as state urges vaccinations

WASHINGTON, Aug. 1 (Reuters) – The polio virus was present in sewage water in a New York City suburb a month before health officials there announced a confirmed case of the disease, state health officials said Monday, urging residents to be sure to be sure they have been vaccinated.

The discovery of the disease from wastewater samples collected in June means the virus was present in the community before the Rockland County adult’s diagnosis was made public on July 21. read more

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in an emailed statement that the presence of the virus in wastewater indicates that there may be more people in the community shedding the virus in their feces.

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However, the CDC added that no new cases have been identified and it is not yet clear whether the virus is actively spreading in New York or elsewhere in the United States.

Laboratory tests also confirmed that the strain in the case is genetically linked to a strain found in Israel, although that didn’t mean the patient had traveled to Israel, officials added. The CDC said genetic sequencing also linked it to samples of the highly contagious and life-threatening virus in the United Kingdom.

The patient began showing symptoms in June, when local officials asked doctors to watch out for cases, according to the New York Times.

“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,” said state health commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett.

There is no cure for polio, which can cause irreversible paralysis in some cases, but it can be prevented by a vaccine made available in 1955.

New York officials have said they are opening vaccine clinics to help unvaccinated residents get their injections. Inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) is the only polio vaccine given in the United States since 2000, according to the CDC. It is given by injection into the leg or arm, depending on the age of the patient.

Polio is often asymptomatic and people can transmit the virus even if they don’t look sick. But it can cause mild, flu-like symptoms that can take up to 30 days to appear, officials said.

It can strike at any age, but the majority of those affected are children three years old and younger.

The New York State Department of Health told Reuters that based on the available evidence, it was unable to conclude with certainty whether the positive polio samples resulted from the case identified in Rockland County.

“Certainly, when samples like this are identified, it raises concerns about the potential of spreading in the community,” the department said.

The polio vaccine developed by Dr. Jonas Salk was heralded as a scientific achievement to tackle the global scourge, now largely eradicated across the country. The United States has not seen a polio case in the country since 1979, although cases were found in 1993 and 2013.

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Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Aurora Ellis and Christopher Cushing

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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