New York's top health official is very worried that "hundreds" of New Yorkers may be currently "infected" with polio.

On Thursday, the New York State Department of Health confirmed the polio virus has been found in wastewater samples from June and July in two geographically different locations in Orange County and July samples from Rockland County. Polio was also found in wastewater samples in June in Rockland County.

As of Friday, officials confirmed even more confirmed samples. 11 positive samples. Three samples were collected in June from Rockland County, three samples were collected in July from Rockland County, and five samples were collected in July from Orange County.

Orange County Department of Health
Orange County Department of Health

'Hundreds' In Hudson Valley or New York State May Be 'Infected' With Polio

The CDC has found seven positive samples from the Hudson Valley. Three from Rockland County and four from Orange County. All are "genetically linked to the individual case of paralytic polio previously identified in a Rockland County resident," officials say.

"Based on earlier polio outbreaks, New Yorkers should know that for every one case of paralytic polio observed, there may be hundreds of other people infected," State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said. "Coupled with the latest wastewater findings, the Department is treating the single case of polio as just the tip of the iceberg of much greater potential spread. As we learn more, what we do know is clear: the danger of polio is present in New York today. We must meet this moment by ensuring that adults, including pregnant people, and young children by 2 months of age are up to date with their immunization – the safe protection against this debilitating virus that every New Yorker needs."

Officials believe these findings prove "further evidence of local—not international—transmission of a polio virus that can cause paralysis and potential community spread." Officials say this adds to the need for every New York adult and child to get vaccinated for polio.


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'Unprecedented' Spread of Polio in New York State

"This unprecedented circulation of polio in our community from a devastating disease that was eradicated from the United States in 1979 must be stopped. Any unvaccinated children and adults should receive a first polio immunization immediately. The Rockland County Department of Health is here to help residents receive vaccinations. Visit our webpage for more information," Rockland County Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Patricia Schnabel Ruppert said.

Officials note the latest findings don't mean the first person found to be infected with polio, from Rockland County, is the source of the ongoing transmission.

Indonesia Continues Polio Immunization Programme
Getty Images

"It is concerning that polio, a disease that has been largely eradicated through vaccination is now circulating in our community, especially given the low rates of vaccination for this debilitating disease in certain areas of our County," Orange County Health Commissioner Dr. Irina Gelman said. "I urge all unvaccinated Orange County residents to get vaccinated as soon as medically feasible."

Facts About Polio

Polio is a viral disease that may affect the neurologic system, causing muscle weakness and, in certain cases, resulting in paralysis or death, according to health officials. The virus typically enters the body through the mouth, usually from hands contaminated with the fecal matter of an infected person. Respiratory or oral transmission is less common but also possible.


Polio is very contagious. You can spread the virus without ever feeling sick. Symptoms that can be mild or flu-like can take up to 30 days to appear. During this timeframe, the infected person can spread the virus. Up to 95 percent of infected people show no symptoms but can still spread the virus, according to health officials.

"Though rare, some polio cases can result in paralysis or death," the New York State Department of Health states.

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