By Shawn Ness | September 19, 2022
Photo Credit: CDC.gov
On July 21, a Rockland County man was discovered to be infected with the poliovirus.
After a 42-year stretch of the virus officially being declared eliminated in the United States, New York Governor Kathy Hochul has declared a state of emergency over the outbreak in an attempt to get more New Yorkers vaccinated.
Polio, a life-threatening disease, is spread from person to person via the mouth. According to the Center for Disease Control, about 70% of cases are asymptomatic, which means that people who do not know they are infected can easily spread the virus, health experts say. Only 1% of infected persons will fall severely ill, including permanent paralysis.
“State government must support the municipalities, localities, and counties in their efforts to facilitate and administer vaccinations and tests for poliovirus, and to prevent the disease from continuing to spread,” the executive order declaring the state of emergency stated.
The order allows registered nurses, EMTs, pharmacists, and midwives to administer the vaccine, as well as requiring healthcare providers to give polio immunization records to the New York State Department of Health (DOH) through the New York State Immunization Information System. This will allow health departments at the state and local levels to target areas with low vaccination rates.
According to reporting by the Times Union, officials are currently monitoring the states’ wastewater system for signs of polio, discovering 57 samples of the virus in numerous countries downstate, most of them coming from Rockland County. 50 of the cases have been traced back to the Rockland County man. The virus has also been detected in New York City and Orange and Sullivan Counties.
"On polio, we simply cannot roll the dice, 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,” said New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “Polio immunization is safe and effective – protecting nearly all people against disease who receive the recommended doses. Do not wait to vaccinate."
New York City’s vaccination rate against polio is nearly 79%, compared to 60% in Rockland County, Orange County at 58%, and Sullivan County At 62%. Nassau and Albany Counties have the highest vaccination rates among these counties with 80% and 84% respectively, according to the Times Union article.
The DOH’s goal is for over 90% of the New York population to be vaccinated against the virus, as well as for all adults and children to be up to date with their vaccinations.