Official polio emergency ends in New York after mass vaccination efforts

The New York State Department of Health says a state of emergency to fight polio is “no longer necessary” following its unexpected resurgence in New York this year.

The order allowed the state to relax rules on who can give polio vaccine, but that’s no longer necessary now that about 50,000 doses of the polio vaccine have been distributed and fewer polio samples have been detected in sewage, the department said .

“We’ve made progress – but the work to increase vaccination rates and protect children from paralysis and other vaccine-preventable diseases continues,” said outgoing Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett on Monday.

Gov. Kathy Hochul declared a state of emergency in September — which expired December 8 — after officials identified the poliovirus in New York City, as well as Nassau, Orange, Sullivan and Rockland counties.

Most of the 94 positive samples are genetically linked to a case involving a Rockland resident who became the first known New Yorker to contract the disease in decades in July.

Hochul is standing at a microphone.
The state of emergency for polio expired December 8 after positive samples in New York dropped.
Matthew McDermott

The department expressed confidence Monday that highly effective polio vaccines could keep the disease in check, after vaccinating more than 46,718 people under the age of 18 since July.

A state press release also said, “As the number of positive sewage samples has decreased over time, the emergency decree was no longer necessary.”

Polio, whose symptoms include a sore throat, fever, and fatigue, was once one of the most feared diseases in the United States until Dr. Jonas Salk successfully developed a vaccine against it in the 1950s, effectively wiping out the disease in the United States by the 1970s.

an image of the microscopic polio virus
Polio was nearly eradicated worldwide until it made a comeback in recent years.
Getty Images/Science Photo Libra

But the disease lingered overseas until making a comeback in recent years in communities with relatively low vaccination rates in the United States, including New York, where only 79% of children in certain counties and ZIP codes had received recommended vaccinations, according to Hochul’s emergency statement .

While the fight against polio has taken a turn in New York, Bassett warned Monday that the war on the infectious disease, which spreads through contact with feces or droplets from infected people, continues.

“The work to increase immunization rates and protect children from paralysis and other vaccine-preventable diseases continues. We remain steadfast in our commitment to continue efforts to build long-term immunization strategies,” Bassett said. Official polio emergency ends in New York after mass vaccination efforts


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