The polio virus has been detected in New York City wastewater, suggesting that there’s community transmission in the five boroughs, city and state health officials announced Friday morning.
The news means that unvaccinated New Yorkers, including close to 14% of children under 5, are at risk of contracting polio, an incurable disease that can cause paralysis and death.
“The risk to New Yorkers is real but the defense is so simple – get vaccinated against polio,” NYC Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan said in a written statement. “Polio is entirely preventable and its reappearance should be a call to action for all of us.”
Most kids and adults in New York City have already received the polio vaccine, which is required by the New York State Department of Health and is 99% effective.
But child vaccination rates vary widely between neighborhoods for kids 6 months to 5 years old. In Greenpoint, Brooklyn, 99% of kids are fully immunized, but in nearby Williamsburg, just 56% can say the same. The citywide rate is 86%, which is higher than the state average of 78%.
Earlier this summer, health officials found evidence of the polio virus in nearby Rockland and Orange counties, which have lower childhood vaccination rates — at around 60%. A case in Rockland County has been linked back to virus samples from Israel and the U.K.. Health officials say they’re tracing transmission and investigating possible cases, but the best protection against the spread of polio is immunization.
Children can get vaccinated against polio at their doctor’s office, or at the NYC health department’s Fort Greene Health Center. You can make an appointment here. And New Yorkers without a doctor can call 311 or 844-NYC-4NYC (844-692-4692) to get help finding one.
This is a developing story and will be updated.