After poliovirus was found in sewage samples from four counties in the New York City area, New York has in an effort to boost low vaccination rates declared a state of emergency.
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In response to new evidence that the virus is spreading in communities, New York Governor Kathy Hochul on Friday proclaimed a state of emergency over polio in an effort to increase vaccination rates in the state.
Now, sewage samples from four counties in the New York city area as well as the city itself have been found to contain poliovirus. The counties are Nassau, Rockland, Orange, and Sullivan.
According to state health officials, the samples tested positive for the poliovirus, which may cause paralysis in people. Unvaccinated people are most at risk of paralysis in Orange, Rockland, Nassau, New York City, and Sullivan, where they live, work, attend school, or travel.
After a non-immunized adult contracted polio in Rockland County in July and experienced paralysis—the country’s first confirmed case in over a decade—New York started monitoring wastewater.
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To increase the vaccination rate in places where it has declined, the emergency declaration will broaden the network of vaccine administrators to include pharmacists, midwives, and EMS personnel.
Dr. Mary Bassett, the commissioner of health for New York, urged those who are unvaccinated to get their shots right now. To make sure they are up to date on their shots, individuals and families who are unsure about their vaccination status should contact a doctor, clinic, or the county health authority.
“On polio, we simply cannot roll the dice,” Bassett said. “I urge New Yorkers to not accept any risk at all. Polio immunization is safe and effective — protecting nearly all people against disease who receive the recommended doses.”
Some counties in New York have disturbingly low polio vaccination rates. According to the health department, the vaccination rate is 60% in Rockland, 58% in Orange, 62% in Sullivan, and 79% in Nassau. 79% of people in the state have received the polio vaccine, on average.
According to the health department, the vaccine campaign’s objective is to raise the state’s vaccination rates well above 90%.
Some New Yorkers should get boosted
Health experts recommended that some New Yorkers who have finished their vaccination series receive just one lifetime booster dose. These people include those who might come into touch with someone who is infected with the poliovirus or who is suspected to be affected, as well as household members of the afflicted person.
If they work in places where the poliovirus has been found and they might handle samples or treat patients who may have the disease, healthcare personnel should also receive a booster. Health experts advised anyone who might be exposed to wastewater as a result of their employment to also think about getting a booster.
The polio vaccine should be administered to all children four times. The first dose is given between the ages of 6 weeks and 2 months, the second at 4 months, the third between the ages of 6 months and 18 months, and the fourth between the ages of 4 and 6 years.
Adults should take the remaining one or two doses if they have only received one or two. It doesn’t matter how long ago the initial dosages were administered, according to health officials.
How poliovirus spreads
People can contract polio when the virus enters their mouths, usually through contact with hands that have been exposed to the faeces of an infected person. Because 70% of infected people do not exhibit symptoms, the virus frequently spreads undetected. Only 25% of those who are infected get mild flu-like symptoms.
One in 100 infected individuals develops a serious illness, such as paralysis for life. Because the breathing muscles are paralysed, polio kills between 2% and 10% of those who are paralysed.
One who took the oral polio vaccine is assumed to have started the chain of transmission that brought polio to New York from abroad. A weakened version of the virus that can still multiply is used in the oral vaccine. The vaccination virus occasionally develops virulent mutations and spreads to other people.
The U.S. stopped using the oral vaccine more than two decades ago. It now uses a vaccine that is given as an injection and contains an inactivated version of the virus, which prevents replication and mutation. Despite the fact that this vaccine is quite successful in preventing sickness, it does not stop virus transmission.
The oral polio vaccination can prevent the spread of the poliovirus that naturally occurs, but there is a chance that the strain used in the vaccine could mutate and become virulent, spreading what is known as vaccine-derived poliovirus.