ALBANY — Polio has been found in more wastewater samples upstate, raising fears that the virus is spreading after an unvaccinated Rockland County resident was paralyzed and hospitalized last month
Wastewater samples taken from two different locations in Orange County in June and July tested positive for the virus, state officials told county leaders earlier this week.
The findings come days after the New York State Department of Health found similar evidence of community spread in sewage samples taken in neighboring Rockland despite no additional cases being reported.
“There have been no confirmed cases of polio infection identified to date in Orange County, but virus is circulating in the community according to recent wastewater analysis reports,” the county’s health department wrote in a Facebook post this week.
State officials are urging anyone who is not vaccinated against the potentially life-threatening virus to do so after an unvaccinated adult in Rockland suffered paralysis and had to be hospitalized last month, the first reported polio case in the U.S in a decade.
Polio is a highly contagious and potentially deadly virus that paralyzed or killed thousands of U.S. children prior to widespread vaccination efforts in the latter half of the 20th century that practically eradicated the virus.
Symptoms, which can be mild and flu-like, can take up to 30 days to appear.
The strain reported in Rockland was identified by officials as one derived from the oral polio vaccine, which contains a mild version of the virus that can still replicate and occasionally spread among the unvaccinated.
The U.S. no longer uses oral vaccines, instead an inactivated polio immunization is administered via a shot.
The variant detected in Rockland is genetically linked to a strain recently recorded in Jerusalem, Israel, although the individual stricken by the virus had not traveled recently, according to officials.
“These environmental findings — which further indicate potential community spread — in addition to the paralytic polio case identified among a Rockland County resident, underscore the urgency of every New York adult and child getting immunized against polio, especially those in the greater New York metropolitan area,” state officials said.