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September 12, 2022

New York governor declares disaster emergency over spread of polio

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    New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) has declared a state disaster emergency following the discovery of more poliovirus samples in five counties throughout New York.

    Hochul declares state disaster emergency

    Analysis of wastewater surveillance by CDC discovered samples of the poliovirus in Nassau County, marking the fifth county in New York—alongside Rockland County, Orange County, Sullivan County, and New York City—in which poliovirus has been discovered in the wastewater.

    The Nassau County sample was genetically linked to the single confirmed case of paralytic polio identified this summer in a young unvaccinated adult in Rockland County.

    As a result, Hochul declared a state disaster emergency through at least Oct. 9, which according to a release from the state's health department, "immediately expands the network of polio vaccine administrators with the addition of EMS workers, midwives, and pharmacists and authorizes physicians and certified nurse practitioners to issue non-patient specific standing orders for polio vaccines."

    It also requires providers to send polio-immunization data to the New York State Department of Health to help health officials better focus vaccination efforts on areas of low uptake.

    According to the governor's office, the polio vaccination rate among 2-year-olds in New York is 79% and "significantly less than that in several counties and zip codes."

    "On polio, we simply cannot roll the dice," said State Health Commissioner Mary Bassett. "If you or your child are unvaccinated or not up to date with vaccinations, the risk of paralytic disease is real. I urge New Yorkers to not accept any risk at all. Polio immunization is safe and effective—protecting nearly all people against disease who receive the recommended doses. Do not wait to vaccinate."

    Those who are fully vaccinated are at low risk of developing paralytic disease, but health officials are encouraging those who are fully vaccinated but at high-risk to receive a single lifetime booster. That applies to individuals who might have close contact with a suspected or confirmed polio patient, as well as health care workers in those areas who might handle poliovirus samples or treat patients who might have polio.

    New York state health officials have sent out polio alerts to providers, hung fliers in houses of worship, grocery stores, and summer camps, and talked with community leaders about boosting vaccination rates this summer. (Sgueglia, CNN, 9/9; Folmar, The Hill, 9/9; Abbott, Wall Street Journal, 9/9; Doherty, Axios, 9/9)

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