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Added efforts underway in state fight on polio

More initiatives are being taken with regard to the possible resurgence of the poliovirus in New York state.

Gov. Kathy Hochul said the steps to address the evidence of a circulating poliovirus in New York state include an official declaration to support local health departments in driving immunizations.

Earlier today, New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett declared poliovirus an imminent threat to public health in New York State, thereby expanding the availability of funding and resources to support local health departments in establishing immunization clinics, deploying vaccine to health care partners, and conducting outreach to unvaccinated and under-vaccinated New Yorkers to increase immunization rates particularly in the areas affected by the virus and among children.

“From day one, we’ve taken an aggressive public health approach to combat the spread of polio and ensure New Yorkers are protected,” Hochul said. “This declaration will bolster our ongoing efforts to protect New Yorkers against paralytic disease, prevent spread, and support our public health partners.”

Bassett said, “Working daily with local county health departments, our partners at CDC, and trusted leaders, the Department is working effectively to increase childhood and community vaccination rates in counties where the virus has been detected. Thanks to long-established school immunization requirements, the vast majority of adults, and most children, are fully vaccinated against polio. Our focus remains on ensuring the on-time administration of polio vaccination among young children and catching kids and adults up who are unimmunized and under-immunized in the affected areas. That work continues at full force.”

The declaration enables localities to continue to work closely with the State Department of Health’s Office of Public Health Practice to claim reimbursement for these public health activities. The Commissioner’s declaration covers poliovirus response activities undertaken from July 21 through Dec. 31.

Following the identification of a case of paralytic polio in an unvaccinated individual in Rockland County, the State Health Department launched wastewater surveillance, a tool to check for signs of the virus in sewage water in communities. Sequence analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has since found repeated evidence of poliovirus detected in samples collected from Rockland County, Orange County, and Sullivan County as well as detected in samples collected from New York City and Nassau County.

New York state has focused its efforts in areas where the threat is concentrated, which includes where there is repeated detection, and where there is a relatively low percentage of children that have completed their three-dose polio regimen by the age of 2. These areas include Rockland, Orange, and Sullivan Counties.

Earlier this month, Hochul declared a State Disaster Emergency to aggressively tackle any potential spread and threat to public health. The declaration increased the availability of resources to protect New Yorkers against paralytic disease.

Polio vaccines provide durable protection, and the inactivated polio vaccine, the only vaccine available in the U.S., protects 99 to 100 percent of people against disease who receive all recommended doses. From July 21 to Sept. 25, approximately 26,000 polio vaccine doses have been administered to children 18 years and younger in Rockland, Orange, Sullivan, and Nassau Counties — a 26 percent increase compared to the same time period in 2021.

Parents and guardians with children 17 years of age or younger who are unvaccinated or not up to date with their polio immunizations should immediately make sure their children get up to date with all recommended doses. This is particularly urgent if they live, work, attend school, or have frequent social interactions with communities where poliovirus has been repeatedly detected in wastewater, which includes Rockland, Orange, and Sullivan counties.

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