Sullivan Prepares For Possible Arrival of Polio


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LIBERTY – Sullivan County’s Department of Public Health is working closely with the NYS Department of Health to secure additional polio vaccine for area healthcare providers and the County health department even before the possibility that the poliovirus is detected in Sullivan County.

“Wastewater surveillance tests have found the polio virus in a number of nearby counties, including in Orange and Rockland, and today in NYC,” notes Public Health Director Nancy McGraw, “so it’s prudent and responsible for us to be ready for the possibility that the poliovirus is circulating here.”

Public Health is also in discussions with the CDC and NYS Department of Health to discuss options for wastewater testing at facilities in Sullivan County to participate in the wastewater surveillance project to check for signs of the virus. This is one of many early detection tools that can help assess the spread of polio in communities.

The detection of poliovirus (the virus that causes paralytic polio) in sewage would suggest the likely local circulation of the virus.

Polio is very contagious, 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.

“In communities with lower vaccination rates, polio can spread very easily,” explains McGraw. “So it’s important that all of us get vaccinated. 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.

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 845-292-5910 or visit www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/polio.

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