Polio found in New York wastewater as state urges vaccination

State health officials said Monday that polio virus was present in wastewater in a New York City suburb a month before health officials announced a confirmed case of the disease last month, and urged residents to check their presence. They were vaccinated.

The discovery of the disease from sewage samples collected in June meant the virus was present in the community before the Rockland County adult diagnosis was announced on July 21. read more

The presence of the virus in wastewater indicates that there may be more people in the community excreting the virus in their faeces, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in an emailed statement.

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However, the CDC added that no new cases had been identified, and that it was not yet clear whether the virus was actively spreading in New York or elsewhere in the United States.

The officials added that laboratory tests also confirmed that the strain in the case is genetically related to a strain found in Israel, although this does not mean that the patient has traveled to Israel. The CDC said genetic sequencing also linked it to samples of the highly contagious and life-threatening virus in the UK.

The patient began showing symptoms in June, when local officials told doctors to be on the lookout for cases, according to the New York Times.

“Given the speed with which polio can spread, it is time for every adult, parent and guardian to vaccinate themselves and their children as quickly as possible,” said state health commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett.

There is no cure for polio, which can cause irreversible paralysis in some cases, but it can be prevented with a vaccine supplied in 1955.

New York officials have said they will open vaccine clinics to help unvaccinated residents get their vaccines. The inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) is the only polio vaccine given in the United States since 2000, according to the CDC. It is given by injection into the leg or arm, depending on the age of the patient.

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

It can strike at any age but the majority of those affected are children aged three years and younger.

Representatives from the New York Department of Health could not immediately be reached for more details about the wastewater results.

The polio vaccine developed by Dr. Jonas Salk in the 1950s was a scientific breakthrough to tackle this global scourge, which has now been largely eradicated nationally. The United States has not had a case of polio in the country since 1979, although cases from a traveler and an oral vaccine were discovered in 1993 and 2013.

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(Reporting by Susan Heavey). Edited by Aurora Ellis

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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