New York declares a DISASTER over polio

New York declares a disaster due to polio outbreak which officials fear have infected THOUSANDS in the state

  • The Governors office has declared a disaster over the states recent polio outbreak that some fear could have infected thousands in the Empire State 
  • It comes after officials announced the detection of the virus in wastewater in Nassau County on Friday
  • The move allows for additional funding an resources to be dedicated towards rolling out vaccines to New Yorkers 
  • The state has a vaccination rate of only 80%, with some counties affected by the outbreak so far posting figures in the low-60s

New York state officials have declared a disaster over the states polio outbreak where there has been one confirmed case and dozens of positive wastewater samples dating back as far as April.

The move was announced by Gov Kathy Hochul’s office on Friday. In a release, officials say that move allows ‘necessary State agencies to take appropriate action to assist local governments and individuals in containing, preparing for, responding to and recovering from this State disaster emergency.’

The Empire state first detected a case of the devastating virus in Rockland County – just outside of New York City’s Bronx borough – on July 21. In the time since, wastewater surveillance has also detected the virus within the city itself and in nearby Orange and Sullivan counties. On Friday, officials revealed that Nassau County, also just outside of the Big Apple, had detected the virus in its wastewater surveillance as well.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed in August that further investigation found at least 21 positive samples of the virus in New York. One of the samples was gathered as far back as April, meaning the devastating virus could have been circulating for months before its detection.

Last month, a local Rockland County official warned that while only one case had been detected so far, the true number of infected New Yorkers could be in the thousands. 

Only around one-in-every-1,900 polio infections in unvaccinated persons will result in paralysis, according to the CDC. Officials assure the public that a vaccinated person has little to worry about with the current outbreak. More than 90 percent of Americans are vaccinated by their second birthday – and many had to receive the shot to attend public school. There is no polio vaccine booster and vaccination in infancy provides protection for a person’s entire life.

Both Rockland and Orange county have vaccination rates in the 60s, significantly lower than the 95 percent mark set by the World Health Organization (WHO) to control the virus

‘On polio, we simply cannot roll the dice,’ Dr Mary Basset, the state’s health commissioner, said in a statement on the Nassau county findings.

‘If you or your child are unvaccinated or not up to date with vaccinations, the risk of paralytic disease is real. I urge New Yorkers to not accept any risk at all.’

The move from Hochul’s office will allow for additional funding and supplies to be dedicated towards boosting the state’s polio vaccination rate.

According to official data, 78 percent of New Yorkers have received at least three polio jabs by age two – the standard schedule for the shots.

Nassau has a vaccination rate slightly better than the state average at 79 percent.

Sullivan (62 percent vaccination rate), Rockland (60 percent) and Orange (58 percent) are all among the parts of the state with the lowest jab rates.

All of these figures are well below the 95 percent rate believed to be needed to actually control the virus in case of an outbreak. 

While only one case has been confirmed so far – in an unvaccinated Rockland County man in his 20s – officials are worried that a massive outbreak is quietly going unnoticed.

‘There isn’t just one case of polio if you see a paralytic case. The incidence of paralytic polio is less than one percent,’ Dr. Patricia Schnabel Ruppert, health commissioner for Rockland County, told the BBC.

‘Most cases are asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic, and those symptoms are often missed.

‘So there are hundreds, perhaps even thousands of cases that have occurred in order for us to see a paralytic case.’

The CDC says that for every 1,900 cases of polio in an unvaccinated person, only one person will show symptoms of paralysis (illustration of polio virus)

Common symptoms of polio include high temperatures, extreme fatigue, headaches, vomiting, stiff neck and muscle pain

The infected Rockland County man initially experienced a fever, neck stiffness, stomach issues and limb weakness.

He was hospitalized, and a stool sample later confirmed that he had a case of vaccine-derived polio.

This form of the virus comes as a result of the oral poliovirus vaccine (OPV). The vaccine delivers a person a live version of the virus. While the body will usually kill the virus – generating antibodies – on some rare occasions the recipient will be infected.

The OPV is no longer used in the U.S., instead having been replaced with the inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) which is delivered via injection.

Some developing nations still use the OPV because it is easier to access and activates antibodies faster than the IPV.

Officials have not yet determined how this man was exposed to vaccine-induced polio.

The CDC reports that a Rockland County man who was confirmed to be infected with polio did not travel outside of the U.S. during the seven to 21 day window where symptoms usually appear. He did attend a local gathering eight days before symptom onset

Paralytic polio often takes between seven to 21 days for an infected person to feel symptoms. The man had no travel outside of the country during that period, however he did attend a large gathering of some sort eight days before symptom onset, which officials speculate could be where the exposure occurred.

‘Based on earlier polio outbreaks, New Yorkers should know that for every one case of paralytic polio observed, there may be hundreds of other people infected,’ Basset warned in August.

In a report revealed by the CDC last month, 260 samples from Rockland and Orange counties were tested. Of that group, 13 samples from Rockland and eight from Orange were found to have traces of the virus.

One Orange county sample from as far back as April had an incomplete sequence of the virus. This means that it may, or may not, be linked to the Rockland County case.

In the time since the conclusion of the report on August 10, New York City, Sullivan and Nassau officials also confirmed the discovery of polio in wastewater surveillance.

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