Rockland County

Polio Detected in NY County's Wastewater Again, 1st Time Since October

A Rockland County man tested positive for polio in 2022, but later testing data indicated that the virus had circulated widely in multiple counties

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For the first time since Oct. 2022, the New York State Department of Health confirmed that polio had been detected in local wastewater from Rockland County.

In a Thursday release, the county said that there was a single positive result that had been collected in February, and that so far, no other samples have had any detection of the virus. County officials said that any residents who are unvaccinated should act quickly to best protect themselves.

With increased travel expected between Israel and Rockland County (which has a sizeable Jewish population) during Passover, the county said there is real risk of spread and paralysis for those who are not vaccinated. Israel's Ministry of Health recently confirmed four children tested positive in the northern portion of the nation. One of the children had paralysis symptoms, while the other three did not show any symptoms.

"It is our obligation to protect all our residents from these debilitating and potentially fatal diseases. The law requiring childhood vaccinations has been in place for many years for this very reason," said County Executive Ed Day. "I urge our residents to act now and protect yourselves, your family, and your community."

The singular positive test of polio in the wastewater is certainly not as concerning as numbers that had been coming in back in October, when about 8 percent of wastewater samples tested in a 13-county area around New York City came back positive for polio, indicating sustained community transmission of the virus in the region.

That testing followed the discovery of a case of paralytic polio in an unvaccinated Rockland County man during Summer 2022. He was the only known case, but data published later in the year made it clear that the virus has spread widely.

Between March 9 and October 11, researchers collected 1,076 wastewater samples from 48 sites covering 13 counties in the region. Of those, 89 samples, or 8.3% of the total, tested positive for poliovirus type 2.

Of the 89 positive samples, 82 were genetically linked to the Rockland County man's infection, and 80 of those 82 were found in Rockland, Sullivan and Orange counties.

A total of seven positive samples were found from sites serving the New York City area at the time, but none have been found in the five boroughs since then.

Polio has now been found in New York City wastewater samples, suggesting the virus is spreading, Melissa Colorado reports.

Rockland County officials said that polio typically hits seasonally, with outbreaks more commonly occurring during the summer — which is why they are stressing the importance of getting vaccinated before that time comes.

"Polio is preventable through the complete vaccination series. Our hope is that we will not see another case of paralytic polio as we did last summer. I urge all who are unvaccinated or are under-vaccinated to complete their series. This is important locally as well as for travelers," said Commissioner of Health Dr. Patricia Schnabel Ruppert.

Last year, the CDC said it was considering using an oral polio vaccine for the first time in two decades in an effort to stop a potential outbreak.

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