Liberty, NY – Sullivan County’s Department of Public Health is working closely with the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) in response to the detection of poliovirus in wastewater samples within the County’s borders.
“We’ve been preparing for this possibility for weeks because of the wastewater surveillance results for poliovirus in Rockland, Orange and NYC, and previously secured additional polio vaccine for area healthcare providers and the County health department,” Public Health Director Nancy McGraw explained. “I want to be clear, however, that to date we have not had any cases of polio found in Sullivan County, and so long as all adults and children are up to date with their polio vaccinations, the disease poses no threat.”
“The public should also be assured that there is no danger of contracting polio from drinking water,” McGraw added. “Typical transmission is via the oral-fecal route (touching fecal matter, then touching the mouth or face), and is of concern only to those who have not been vaccinated or for children who are behind in their immunizations. Providers should take time in every primary care visit with adults and children to ensure that they are up to date with the recommended vaccines for their age.”
“Sullivan County is taking all reasonable steps to monitor the situation and keep the people of the County safe,” noted County Manager Josh Potosek. “We urge parents and adults to be vigilant and aware of their vaccination status, because polio is a disease that can be eliminated through vaccination.”
What is polio?
Polio is very contagious to the unvaccinated, and a person can spread the virus even if they aren’t sick or experiencing symptoms. The best way to keep adults and children polio-free is through safe, on-time childhood immunizations, and adult immunization for polio when someone has not been previously vaccinated.
The polio virus enters the body through the mouth, usually from hands contaminated with the stool of an infected person. Respiratory and oral-to-oral transmission through saliva may also occur. Symptoms, which can be mild and flu-like (fatigue, fever, headache, stiffness, muscle pain, vomiting), can take up to 30 days to appear, during which time an infected individual can be shedding virus to others.
“Sullivan County has an overall 62.33% vaccination rate for polio, but there are some areas of the County with lower vaccination rates, and because polio can spread very easily, it’s important that everyone is vaccinated,” explains McGraw. “Public Health is offering a safe and proven vaccine available to children two months of age or older. We are working with the State to get vaccine to providers for adults. If adults need vaccine, we encourage then to contact their healthcare provider.”
What are the symptoms of polio?
Polio is highly infectious. Symptoms range from nothing to mild and flu-like to serious, including paralysis, permanent disability or post-polio syndrome, even death.
Paralysis is the most severe symptom associated with polio, because it can lead to permanent disability and death. Even children who seem to fully recover can develop new muscle pain, weakness, or paralysis as adults 15 to 40 years later. This is called post-polio syndrome.
How can I protect myself against polio?
The best way to stay polio-free is to maintain high immunity across the population through vaccination. If you received the vaccine already (for example, as a child when attending public school), you are considered protected for life. No booster shot is necessary, unless travelling to an area where there is high transmission.
Most adults do not need polio vaccine because they were already vaccinated as children. New Yorkers who are not up-to-date with vaccination should speak to their health care provider or their child’s provider to schedule an appointment for vaccination against polio and other dangerous diseases, such as measles, mumps, whooping cough, chickenpox and COVID-19.
Polio outbreaks are happening globally. Children and adults should be up-to-date with polio and other routine immunizations before travelling. Adults who received polio vaccine as children should receive a one-time lifetime booster if traveling to an area where there is a poliovirus transmission.
Sullivan County’s vaccination rate for polio is 62.33%, compared to 60.34% in Rockland and 58.68% in Orange counties. The statewide rate is 78.96%.
If you or your child are not yet vaccinated, now is the time to get vaccinated.
For more information, contact Public Health at 845-513-2249, visit health.ny.gov/polio or see NYSDOH’s press release here.