Sept. 15, 2022 -- Polio was one of the most feared diseases in the United States, annually paralyzing thousands of people, until it was declared eliminated by vaccination in 1979.

Now, the CDC is planning to test sewage in communities deemed at risk for polio since a case was discovered in Rockland County, New Jersey, in July. The Rockland case was the first in the United States in about a decade.

The virus has been detected in wastewater samples in several nearby communities: New York City, Orange County, Sullivan County, and most recently, Nassau County on Long Island.

“Evidence of expanding community spread has landed the United States on a list of more than 30 countries with active circulation of a type of polio known as vaccine-derived polio virus,” The Washington Post reported.

“It also prompted New York Gov. Kathy Hochul to declare a state of emergency [on Sept. 9], authorizing paramedics, midwives and pharmacists to administer polio vaccinations, among other steps, to accelerate immunization rates,” The Washington Post wrote. “The emergency order also directs health-care providers to update the state with data on immunizations.”

Two types of vaccines protect against polio. Most countries, including the United States, use shots made from an inactivated version of the virus. Some countries use a weakened live virus given to children orally. It can lead to “vaccine-derived polio,” which was identified in the Rockland County patient.

No additional cases of polio have been found. But the other discovered virus samples have been genetically linked to that Rockland County man, the CDC has said.

Oral polio vaccine hasn’t been used or licensed in the United States since 2000.

In the United States, 93% of 2-year-olds have received at least three doses of polio vaccine, the CDC reports.

Show Sources

CDC: “United States confirmed as country with circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus.”

The Washington Post: “Community spread of polio prompts CDC wastewater surveillance.”

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