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The Guardian - US
The Guardian - US
Guardian staff and agencies

Polio virus detected in New York wastewater, health officials say

New York officials said they were opening vaccine clinics to help unvaccinated residents get their shots.
New York officials said they were opening vaccine clinics to help unvaccinated residents get their shots. Photograph: Niyi Fote/Zuma/Rex/Shutterstock

The virus that causes polio has been detected in New York City’s wastewater weeks after a case of polio was identified in Rockland county, about 30 miles north of the city, health officials announced on Friday.

The presence of the poliovirus in the city’s wastewater suggests likely local circulation of the virus, the city and New York state health departments said.

The state health commissioner, Mary Bassett, said the detection of poliovirus in wastewater samples in New York City was alarming but not surprising.

Earlier this month it emerged that the polio virus was present in wastewater in a suburb north of New York City, a month before health officials there announced a confirmed case of the disease in July, state health officials said on Monday.

Health officials urged the public to be sure they and their children have been or get 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 21 July. The case marked the first in a US adult in nearly a decade.

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

The patient had started exhibiting symptoms in June, when local officials asked doctors to be on the lookout 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,” the New York state health commissioner, Bassett, said then.

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 were opening vaccine clinics to help unvaccinated residents get their shots. Inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) is the only polio vaccine that has been given in the United States since 2000, according to the CDC. It is given by shot in the leg or arm, depending on the patient’s age.

Polio is often asymptomatic and people can transmit the virus even when they do not appear sick. But it can produce mild, flu-like symptoms that can take as long as 30 days to appear, officials said.

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