Health officials claim they found the polio virus in New York City's wastewater.

Health officials claim the polio virus was found in New York City’s wastewater.

What Is Polio?

According to the CDC, polio, or poliomyelitis, is a disabling and life-threatening disease caused by the poliovirus. The virus can spread along the nerve fibers in the spinal cord and eat away at the nerves inside the parts of the body that allows us to move. About 5% to 10% of people die after becoming paralyzed because the muscles that control breathing become immobile by the virus.

Most people who catch polio will fully recover, but only about 1% of cases leave the sufferer with permanent physical disabilities.

The virus is transmitted by person-to-person spread mainly through fecal matter passed from one person to the mouth of another person, or through contaminated water or food.

New York and Polio

In a press release on August 12th, the NY State Health Department updated New Yorkers on the detection of the virus that was found in sewage water, which suggests likely local circulation of the virus.

New York State Health Commissioner Mary Bassett said, “For every one case of paralytic polio identified, hundreds more may be undetected. The detection of poliovirus in wastewater samples in New York City is alarming, but not surprising. Already, the State Health Department — working with local and federal partners — is responding urgently, continuing case investigation and aggressively assessing spread.”

On July 21st, a case of polio was found in Rockland County, and in wastewater samples collected in May, June, and July from neighboring New York City counties (Rockland and Orange County).

What’s Next?

According to Politico, there are no current confirmed cases in New York City. However, health care officials recommend that children take the polio vaccine.

Before the recent “outbreak” in the United States, polio was endemic in three main countries, Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan.

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