The New York State Health Department is treating one case as the “tip of the iceberg” after finding the virus in two counties
Hundreds of Americans may be infected with the poliovirus, New York state health authorities claimed on Friday after identifying the virus in wastewater samples in two different counties.
According to State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett, as earlier polio outbreaks have shown, “New Yorkers should know that for every one case of paralytic polio observed, there may be hundreds of other people infected.”
“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,” Bassett added.
The polio samples were taken from two different locations in Orange County in June and July, as well as one location in Rockland County in July, according to the New York State Department of Health.
In late July, New York health officials identified the first polio case in nearly a decade in the US. The victim was an unnamed 20-year-old man from Rockland County who apparently contracted a vaccine-derived strain of the virus and started experiencing weakness and paralysis.
The authorities noted that the available evidence does not indicate that the man was the source of the transmission, adding that the “investigation into the origin of the virus is ongoing.” They also said they were working to roll out prevention measures, particularly in vaccination clinics, adding that “the best way to keep New York polio-free is to maintain high immunity across the population through vaccination.”
Faced with another potential crisis that could follow in the footsteps of the Covid-19 pandemic and the monkeypox outbreak, the Health Department encouraged those who have not done so to get vaccinated right away. It also said that those who live, work, go to school in, or visit Rockland County, Orange County, and the greater New York metropolitan area are at the highest risk of contracting the virus.
The US eradicated polio in 1979 and had not reported a new case originating within the country since then. Over the past four decades, new infections have been reported only in people who brought the virus from overseas.
Although polio is incurable, it can be prevented through vaccination, the health authorities said. The vaccine is 99% effective in children who receive all the required doses, while around 93% of Americans receive at least three doses by the time they are toddlers.
Polio, or poliomyelitis, is a life-threatening and extremely contagious disease that can be transmitted by individuals who exhibit no symptoms. In the worst cases, it can affect the brain and spinal cord, causing meningitis or paralysis.