The governor’s order allows more medical workers to administer polio vaccines after the virus was found in sewage samples from another New York county.
The governor of the US state of New York has declared a so-called “disaster emergency” after the polio virus was discovered in sewage samples from another county in the New York City area York.
New York health officials began checking sewage for signs of the virus after the United States reported its first confirmed case of polio in nearly a decade in July in Rockland County, about 48 km (30 miles) north of Manhattan.
The latest detection was found in a sample from Nassau County on Long Island, the state Department of Health said Friday. The virus has also been detected in samples taken every month since April in Orange, Rockland and Sullivan counties, as well as in New York City.
“A disaster has struck New York State, leaving affected local governments unable to respond adequately,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said in Friday’s disaster declaration.
The order allows EMS workers, midwives and pharmacists to administer polio vaccines and gives doctors the power to issue standing orders for the vaccine. Data on immunizations will be used to focus vaccination efforts where they are needed most.
“On polio, we simply cannot roll the dice,” state Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T Bassett said in a statement. “If you or your child is unvaccinated or up-to-date on vaccinations, the risk of paralytic disease is real. I urge New Yorkers to take no risk.”
New York officials said in July that the polio case was confirmed in an unvaccinated youth in Rockland Country.
“The sample collected in August from Nassau County has been genetically linked” to this confirmed case, the Health Department said Friday, which is “further evidence of expanding community spread.”
Polio was once one of the most feared diseases in the country, with annual outbreaks resulting in thousands of cases of paralysis.
The virus, which spreads between people and is highly contagious, mainly affects children under the age of five, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Its symptoms include sore throat, fever, tiredness and nausea, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says on its website. Most people infected with polio do not have symptoms, but they can still transmit the virus for days and even weeks.
In New York, the statewide polio vaccination rate is 79 percent, but Rockland, Orange and Sullivan counties had lower rates. Officials have said hundreds of people in the state may have contracted polio and don’t know it.
The governor’s disaster emergency declaration will remain in effect until October 9.
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