New York Gov. Kathy Hochul stated: “state disaster emergency“Friday after SOliovirus was detected in a fourth county’s wastewaterindicating that the dangerous virus continues to spread, possibly in areas with abysmal vaccination rates.
Today’s emergency declaration aims to increase access to polio vaccines in the state and allow more types of health care providers to approve and administer polio vaccines. It also makes it necessary for healthcare providers to report immunization data to the state so health officials can better identify areas at risk.
The emergency dates back to July, when officials reported paralytic polio in an unvaccinated Rockland County adult whose symptoms began in June. As of September 9, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has detected poliovirus in 57 sewage samples from four counties (Rockland, Orange, Sullivan, and Newcomer Nassau) and New York City, with the earliest detection in April in Orange County.
Despite public awareness and vaccination campaigns, transmission appears to be strong. Of those 57 positive samples, 27 were discovered in August. And 50 of the 57 positive samples are directly genetically linked to the Rockland paralytic polio case. Those 50 genetically linked samples include the newest county to have the poliovirus detected, Nassau, which had a positive sewage sample last month.
The vaccination rates in the affected counties are worrying. Rockland County — notorious for generally low immunization rates after battling a persistent measles outbreak in 2019 — has a polio immunization rate of just 60 percent among children under the age of two who are recommended three doses of polio vaccine. Orange and Sullivan counties have rates of 57 percent and 62 percent, respectively. Nassau has a better rate of 79 percent, which is in line with the national average.
But these nationwide averages can mask pockets with even lower vaccinations. The State of New York has immunization rate data at the zip code level for Rockland and Orange counties – and they are worrying. In Orange, two postcodes have vaccination rates of 31 percent and 41 percent. Rockland has a ZIP code with a vaccination rate of just 37 percent. The aim of the state health department is vaccination rates of well over 90 percent.
“With polio, we just can’t play the dice,” said New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett, in a statement on Friday. “If you or your child are not vaccinated or not up to date, there is a risk of paralysis. I urge New Yorkers not to take any chances at all.”
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