State disaster emergency declared after polio found in Nassau County wastewater

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Saturday, September 10, 2022
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Nassau is the latest county in the state to detect polio in the wastewater, prompting a state disaster emergency. Sonia RIncon has more from Port Washington.

NASSAU COUNTY, Long Island (WABC) -- Nassau is the latest county in the state to detect polio in the wastewater -- indicating community spread.

Gov. Kathy Hochul declared a state disaster emergency amid "evidence of circulating polio."

The declaration will allow more types of providers to administer the polio vaccine, like pharmacists, in effect, making it easier to get.

It does not mean there is an outbreak. But it does mean If there is an outbreak, the vaccine would prevent any spread.

Polio was previously detected in wastewater collected in samples in Rockland, Orange and Sullivan counties and in New York City.

The strains recovered in the wastewater in the previous three counties and NYC were all genetically linked to the state's sole identified polio case -- a Rockland County resident.

During a press conference Friday, Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman stressed there is no polio case in the county.

"I don't want to alarm anybody, there are no cases of polio that has been discovered here in this region or in Nassau County," Blakeman said. "Nobody should panic, there is no crisis right now, there is no active case of polio in Nassau County."

The polio strands were detected during routine wastewater testing for various viruses, including coronavirus. The tests have been routine for the last two years because of the coronavirus pandemic.

"They've been key because what they allow us to do is make determinations as to whether there is a spiking before people actually get the symptoms and report it to their doctors, so it saves us days in which we can prepare," Blakeman said.

A trace of poliovirus turned up that would have come from the North Shore region that includes Manhasset, Port Washington, Roslyn and Glenwood Landing.

The sample was taken at the local wastewater facility and sent to the state.

It could mean one of two things -- either someone recently received an oral vaccine that's not available in the U.S. Traces of virus would turn up in wastewater.

"If we have subsequent tests that continue to be positive that will kind of give us an idea if it's an ongoing situation or if it was just one test," said acting Nassau County Health Commissioner Andrew Knect.

The other possibility is that someone there has the virus and it hasn't been reported because they're asymptomatic.

"About 74% of people who have it don't have any symptoms," Knecht said. "So, it's possible that's the case and people just need to be vigilant about what their vaccine status is. Because that's the only way to protect yourself."

The Department of Health is urging anyone who hasn't done so to get the polio vaccine. Nassau County officials said they have been on calls with the state and the CDC to ensure that the county has enough vaccine so that anyone who hasn't had one can get one right away.

All the impacted counties have low polio vaccinations among young children.

Among children who have received the polio immunizations before their second birthday:

-Rockland County has a polio vaccination rate of 60.34%

-Orange County has a polio vaccination rate of 58.68%

-Sullivan County has a polio vaccination rate of 62.33%

-Nassau County has a polio vaccination rate of 79.15%, compared to the statewide average of 78.96%,

RELATED | Polio: What to know about signs, symptoms of virus

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