New York Declares Polio State of Emergency; What Does That Mean?
Two months after the first polio case in almost a decade was found here in New York State, Governor Kathy Hochul has declared a state of emergency. This news comes after the incurable virus was found in the public water of a new county.
In July, an unvaccinated Rockland County man was hospitalized in New York City after contracting a strain of vaccine-derived polio on a trip to Europe. In response, the Centers for Disease Control began testing residents and wastewater of Rockland and neighboring counties.
What Is Polio?
Polio is a highly contagious virus that attacks nerve cells in the spine. It typically enters a body through the mouth or respiratory system after cross-contamination. Symptoms may take 30 days to appear and are typically mild. 25% of those with the virus will experience:
- Muscle or stomach pain
- Sore throat
The most extreme cases can lead to:
- Paresthesia (pins and needles feeling in the legs)
- Paralysis or weakness in the arms and legs
- Post-polio syndrome (children who appear fully recovered can develop paralysis of weakness 15 to 40 years later)
1 in 200 polio cases leads to some variation of irreversible paralysis, according to the World Health Organization. One percent of all cases leads to total body paralysis, which is usually fatal once it affects the lungs. There is no cure for polio, only a preventative measure via vaccine.
Where Has Polio Been Found in New York State?
Besides Rockland, the virus has been found in Metro NYC plus Orange County, Sullivan County, and the newest county. The CDC and New York health officials are concerned that Upstate may be the next area at direct risk.
Long Island’s Nassau County is the latest to have wastewater test positive for polio. With the exception of Nassau and NYC, every area to test positive has a polio vaccination rate well below the state average of 79%, as reported by the New York Times.
What Does a Polio State of Emergency Mean?
Governor Hochul’s Executive Order allows more direct and swift action to be taken to prevent the spread of the virus, especially by way of vaccination. Under the state of emergency, emergency service workers, midwives, and pharmacists are allowed to give the vaccine. The order also means health care providers must share polio vaccination numbers with the state.