Case of Polio in New York State; Wastewater in NYC Shows Polio There

On July 21, 2022, the New York State Department of Health and the Rockland County Department of Health alerted the public to a case of polio in a Rockland County resident. It is the first polio case identified in the United States in nearly 10 years. The case was confirmed by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The virus was also detected in sewage in Rockland County and Orange County, NY, north of New York City, and in New York City. Wastewater surveillance is a tool to detect and assess the spread of polio in communities. As of August 23, sequencing analysis by the CDC confirmed the presence of poliovirus in a total of 31 positive samples of concern. “These environmental findings provide evidence that the unvaccinated individual Rockland County resident with paralytic polio contracted the virus through local, not abroad or international, transmission and raise concerns about the potential for community spread of poliovirus that can cause paralysis in these communities,” the New York Health Department notes, underscoring the urgency of every adult and child getting immunized and staying up to date with their polio immunization schedule.

The CDC is considering a variety of options to protect people from polio, including offering children in the area an extra shot of the vaccine, as United Kingdom health authorities are doing now in London, or recommending extra doses to certain groups of adults.

All healthcare providers are urged to ensure their patients are up to date on the polio vaccine, especially children and New Yorkers at heightened risk of exposure. Healthcare providers should consider polio in the differential diagnosis of patients with sudden onset of limb weakness with history of fever and/or gastrointestinal illness. Providers should especially be on alert for these symptoms in unvaccinated individuals, those currently at increased risk of community transmission, or those with recent international travel or exposures to international travelers.