“Detection of Polio Virus in New York City Wastewater Samples Disturbing, But Not Surprising”said Mary Bassett, a state health official, in a statement.
In mid-July, a case of polio was recorded in Rockland County, a few dozen kilometers north of Manhattan. It was the first case of polio in the country for almost a decade.
Traces of the virus had then already been found in the wastewater of this county and another nearby.
For each case of the disease identified, “several hundred could remain undetected”, warned Mary Bassett. Those people who do not develop symptoms can still transmit the disease.
Polio, an extremely contagious viral disease affecting children in particular, can cause permanent paralysis of the limbs, and even death in some cases.
“The risk to New Yorkers is real, but defending yourself is so simple: Get the polio shot”called Ashwin Vasan, in charge of health at the town hall.
Only 86% of New York City children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years have received three doses of the vaccine, according to a statement from the authorities, some 14% of them not being fully protected.
A free or low-cost vaccination site has been set up for children.
Experts from the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) have been sent to the state to help with screening and vaccination operations.
“The consequences of polio are devastating and irreversible, and these latest developments are cause for concern.“, wrote the CDC.
The disease has been virtually eradicated worldwide. But in June, British authorities announced that they had detected traces of a form of polio in a sewage treatment plant in north-east London. Vaccination of children has been reinforced there.