Poliovirus Detected in New York City Wastewater

Poliovirus that can cause paralysis was detected in New York City wastewater samples, city and state health officials announced on August 12. They urged New Yorkers to vaccinate against a life-threatening disease.

"For every one case of paralytic polio identified, hundreds more may be undetected," New York state Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said in a statement.

She called the detection of poliovirus "alarming, but not surprising" and said that immunization is the best way to keep adults and children polio-free.

"The risk to New Yorkers is real, but the defense is so simple – get vaccinated against polio," said New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan.

"With polio circulating in our communities, there is simply nothing more essential than vaccinating our children to protect them from this virus, and if you're an unvaccinated or incompletely vaccinated adult, please choose now to get the vaccine. Polio is entirely preventable and its reappearance should be a call to action for all of us."

In July, New York state reported the first US polio case since 2013. The patient, who hadn't traveled outside the country before getting infected, is an unvaccinated young adult who lives in Rockland County. He developed significant symptoms, including paralysis.

The poliovirus was also detected in wastewater samples collected in May, June, and July from neighboring New York City counties, Rockland and Orange County.

Health officials warn that polio can lead to permanent paralysis of the arms and legs and can be fatal due to paralysis in the muscles used to breathe or swallow. One in 25 people with the infection will get viral meningitis, and about one in 200 will become paralyzed.

However, most people infected with the virus do not show any symptoms or develop flu-like symptoms, such as sore throat, tiredness, nausea, and stomach pain.

Inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) is the only polio vaccine administered in the US since 2000. It is given by a shot in the leg or arm, depending on the patient's age.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that children get four doses of the polio vaccine. They should get one dose at each of the following ages: 2 months old, 4 months old, 6 through 18 months old, and 4 through 6 years old.

Adults who completed their polio vaccination but who are at increased risk of coming in contact with poliovirus may receive one lifetime IPV booster.


1. New York State Department of Health. NYSDOH and NYCDOHMH Announce Wastewater Monitoring Identifies Polio In New York City and Urge Unvaccinated New Yorkers to Get Vaccinated Now.

2. CDC. Polio Vaccination: What Everyone Should Know.

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