Polio found in New York wastewater after first case in a decade could be linked London and Jerusalem

The first case of polio in the US in over a decade was discovered in Rockland County, New York (Picture: Getty Images/Google Maps)

Polio appears to have been present in upstate New York wastewater for at least a month before a patient was .

The Global Polio Laboratory Network, working with the New York State Department of Health, on Friday identified the virus as genetically linked to the polio virus discovered in the greater Jerusalem area and wastewater. The development came weeks after a Rockland County resident was diagnosed with polio on July 21.

‘This information may provide some clues about how the virus was introduced into the US, as we have a large volume of travel between New York, Israel and ,’ Centers for Disease Control (CDC) spokesperson Kate Grusich told Metro.co.uk on Tuesday afternoon.

‘While the Rockland County patient did not travel to either of these countries, it is possible that others in the community may have, or a visitor from outside the country brought the virus into Rockland County.’

Vaccine-deprived poliovirus can spread in unvaccinated communities from children who receive the oral vaccine (Picture: Agung Samosir/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The virus detected in Rockland County is a type 2 vaccine-derived poliovirus – a form of the virus that can be shed from children given the oral polio vaccine.

The oral vaccine uses a weakened live virus that can potentially be shed from children who receive it. If the weakened virus circulates through under-vaccinated communities for a long enough time, it can ‘genetically revert to a version that causes paralysis’, according to the CDC.

The US has not used the oral polio vaccine since 2000. It only uses the inactive polio vaccine, which does not use a live virus and cannot shed the disease.

The sample containing the virus was collected from Rockland County in June. The presence of polio in wastewater, discovered on Monday, means that more people may be shedding the virus through their stool, according to the CDC.

Parents and children wait outside the Riverside Public School in Elmira, New York, on July 1, 1953, to get the polio vaccine. The US only uses the inactivated polio vaccine, which cannot spread any form of the virus (Picture: AP)

‘However, it’s important to note that we don’t have enough information at this time to determine if the virus is actively spreading in New York or elsewhere in the US,’ Grusich said. The CDC and state authorities will continue to collect wastewater samples to investigate and test for the virus.

State health officials could not conclusively tell if the polio found in Rockland County came solely from the single confirmed patient.

Polio can take up to 30 days for symptoms to appear. During that time period, infected people can still transmit the virus to others. Symptoms of polio range from mild, flu-like to paralysis and death.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul is urging all New Yorkers to get vaccinated or finish their vaccination regimens if incomplete – particularly for children two months or older and pregnant women.

The oral polio vaccine uses a weakened live virus that can potentially be shed from children who receive it (Picture: AFP)

‘Poliovirus is still a threat in some countries, and it can be imported into the US and find gaps where there are pockets of under – or unvaccinated people,’ said Grusich.

Rockland County has a vaccination rate of about 60% for two-year-olds, compared to a statewide vaccination rate of 79% for the same age.

‘Given how quickly polio can spread, now is the time for every adult, parent, and guardian to get themselves and their children vaccinated as soon as possible,’ stated New York State Health Commissioner Dr Mary Bassett.

After the first case was reported, vaccination clinics were immediately set up the next day by the county health department.

The recent outbreak was reported when a man was diagnosed with the virus on July 21. So far, this is the only reported case in the area.

The patient has not yet been identified.

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