New York State is taking more steps to address evidence of circulating poliovirus in the Hudson Valley, Long Island and New York City, including an official declaration of “imminent threat to public health” to make more support for local health departments possible.
Anyone who has not been vaccinated against the virus, once a global scourge, is at risk. There is no cure for polio, also known as infantile paralysis. Polio affects the nervous system. It is very contagious and can be spread by someone even if they aren’t sick or experiencing symptoms, which range from mild flu-like symptoms to paralysis and death. People who are carrying the virus shed it in their stools.
New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett made the declaration Wednesday. “Working daily with local county health departments, our partners at CDC, and trusted leaders, the Department is working effectively to increase childhood and community vaccination rates in counties where the virus has been detected,” she said. “Thanks to long-established school immunization requirements, the vast majority of adults, and most children, are fully vaccinated against polio. Our focus remains on ensuring the on-time administration of polio vaccination among young children and catching kids and adults up who are unimmunized and under-immunized in the affected areas. That work continues at full force.”
State officials hope to increase immunization rates particularly among children and in the areas where poliovirus is circulating.
The State Health Department launched wastewater surveillance in July, a tool to check for signs of the virus in sewage water in communities. Sequence analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has since found repeated evidence of poliovirus in samples collected from Rockland, Orange and Sullivan counties as well as detected in samples collected from New York City and Nassau County.
They are also conducting education and outreach in communities where the virus has been detected to spread greater awareness and encourage vaccination, particularly to parents and guardians of young children, state officials said.
From July 21 to Sept. 25, roughly 26,000 polio vaccine doses have been administered to children 18 years and younger in Rockland, Orange, Sullivan, and Nassau counties — a 26 percent increase compared to the same time period in 2021, state officials said.
An executive order expanded the network of polio vaccine administrators by allowing emergency medical services workers, midwives, and pharmacists to administer vaccines and authorize physicians and certified nurse practitioners to issue non-patient specific standing orders for polio vaccines.
Parents and guardians with children 17 years of age or younger who are unvaccinated or not up to date with their polio immunizations should immediately make sure their children get up to date with all recommended doses.
New York adults outside of these areas who are unvaccinated, unsure of their vaccination status, or not up to date with vaccinations should consult with a health care provider. If vaccination is recommended and a provider does not have doses on hand, New Yorkers should contact their local health department.