City officials announced Friday morning that the polio virus, an incurable disease that can cause paralysis and death, has been detected in New York City wastewater, reports The Gothamist.
The new discovery suggests that there is community transmission across the five boroughs, meaning that unvaccinated New Yorkers are at risk.
“The risk to New Yorkers is real but the defense is so simple – get vaccinated against polio,” stated NYC Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan. “Polio is entirely preventable and its reappearance should be a call to action for all of us.”
Most kids and adults in New York City have already received the polio vaccine, which is required by the New York State Department of Health and is 99% effective. But, among the unvaccinated are close to 14% of children under five.
Child vaccination rates vary widely between neighborhoods for kids 6 months to 5 years old. In Greenpoint, Brooklyn, 99% of kids are fully immunized, but in nearby Williamsburg, just 56% can say the same. The citywide rate is 86%, which is higher than the state average of 78%.
Children can get vaccinated against polio at their doctor’s office, or at the NYC health department’s Fort Greene Health Center. You can make an appointment here. And New Yorkers without a doctor can call 311 or 844-NYC-4NYC (844-692-4692) to get help finding one.
Health officials say they are investigating possible cases, but the best protection against the spread of polio is immunization.