Polio found in NYC wastewater; local circulation likely

Wastewater treatment plant in Brooklyn
Wastewater treatment plant in Brooklyn

Kenneth Dellaquila / Flickr cc

Wastewater surveillance has now detected polio in samples from New York City, suggesting further local spread in the wake of earlier detections in two nearby counties, Rockland and Orange, the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) and NYC Health announced today.

The earlier findings were linked to the virus that sickened a man from Rockland County. The Sabin-like type 2 poliovirus has also been identified in similar environmental detections in London and Jerusalem.

No link to Rockland County patient

In a separate update on wastewater sampling, NYSDOH said six positive samples of concern have been found in New York City, two from June and four from July. So far, the samples haven't been genetically linked to virus that sickened the patient in Rockland County.

Sequencing tests so far suggest the virus in New York City wastewater is either vaccine-derived poliovirus or variants of the revertant polio Sabin-like type 2 poliovirus, both of which can cause illness in people.

State Health Commissioner Mary Bassett, MD, MPH, said in the joint news release that for every paralytic polio case identified, hundreds more may be undetected. "The detection of poliovirus in wastewater samples in New York City is alarming, but not surprising."

Officials warned that coverage for routine vaccinations has fallen among New York City children since 2019, putting residents at risk for outbreaks and complications from vaccine-preventable diseases. In New York City, only 86.2% of kids from 6 months to 5 years have received the recommended three doses of polio vaccine. The percentage is lower in some neighborhoods, some with vaccine coverage below 70%.

The NSYDOH has urged all state residents who are not up to date with vaccination to speak with health providers to schedule a vaccination appointment. The city is also offering low- or no-cost vaccines for children ages 4 and older.

Three nations report new cases

In international developments, three countries—Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Mozambique, and Yemen—reported more polio cases this week, according to the latest update from the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI). All involved vaccine-derived poliovirus types.

The DRC reported 9 more circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2 (cVDPV2) cases in three provinces, raising its total for the year to 73. Mozambique has reported one more circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 1 (cVDPV1) case, its second of the year.

In the Middle East, Yemen reported 26 more cVDPV2 cases in seven locations, putting the country's total at 80 for 2022.

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