New York Gov. Kathy Hochul declares state of emergency due to rise in polio

Oh great, another virus. On Friday, the governor declared a state of emergency in New York because five counties — Nassau, New York, Orange, Rockland, and Sullivan — detected the poliovirus in their wastewater. The samples of the virus found are the type that can cause paralysis. Unvaccinated people in the aforementioned areas are at high risk, but the vaccine is said to be 99-100% effective.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul declared a state of emergency on Friday, following the news that several counties outside of New York City had poliovirus in their wastewater.

Unvaccinated people living, working or spending any time in Orange, Rockland, Nassau, New York City and Sullivan are at a high risk, officials said. The disaster emergency declaration serves to expand the network of vaccine administrators to pharmacists, midwives and EMS workers as well as traditional healthcare providers.

The executive order of emergency will also launch a reporting system for healthcare providers to send polio immunization data to the New York State Department of Health. This will help the organization redouble efforts to vaccinate individuals in communities that need it most.

“On polio, we simply cannot roll the dice,” State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said in a statement. “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. If you are unsure of you or your families’ vaccination status, contact a healthcare provider, clinic, or local county health department to make sure you and your loved ones receive all recommended doses.”

The vaccination rate is 60% in Rockland, 58% in Orange, 62% in Sullivan and 79% in Nassau, according to the health department. The statewide average for polio immunization is about 79%.

The virus was found in wastewater in all five areas. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tested samples in August, reporting they are samples of concern — meaning they are the types of poliovirus that can cause paralysis in humans.

Officials said their goal is to reach a rate of “well over 90 percent” of vaccinated individuals in the state, also reminding New Yorkers that washing their hands with soap is an effective way to avoid the spread of the virus.

“Alcohol-based sanitizers do not work on some types of germs, like polio,” the release said.

The series of vaccinations to be fully protected against polio varies depending on the age and health of the individual receiving it, but the statement by the governor’s office emphasizes its effectiveness.

“The inactivated polio vaccine (IPV), the only vaccine available in the United States, is safe, and contains no live virus. It protects 99 – 100 percent of people who get all recommended doses,” officials said.

The state is also recommending that certain New Yorkers who have previously completed their polio vaccine series should receive one lifetime booster dose of IPV, especially if they are healthcare workers.

Polio is a highly contagious viral disease that can affect the nervous system and cause muscle weakness and, in some cases, paralysis or death. It is most often transmitted through contaminated water or food, or sometimes through a person’s saliva.

[From People]

Very important note (especially for me because I love the stuff) alcohol-based sanitizers don’t work on the polio germs. Washing hands with soap and water is the way to avoid the spread of this virus. Well… my gosh, it’s like there is always a new virus or illness to be afraid of contracting. This one, with the potential paralysis, is particularly scary. I think the polio vaccine was standard as part of childhood vaccinations, but the vaccination rates stated in the article are lower than I expected, at 79% statewide and as low as 58% in one of the five counties where it was found. The state is aiming for a 90% vaccination rate and has also said that certain New Yorkers who are already vaccinated should get a lifetime booster, especially if they are healthcare workers. Hopefully the potential for paralysis will shake some sense into any holdouts and this can be neutralized fairly quickly.

Photos credit: Cover Images, CDC via Pexels and Kristine Wook on Unsplash

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33 Responses to “New York Gov. Kathy Hochul declares state of emergency due to rise in polio”

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  1. Lucy says:

    Good grief! Polio is back? POLIO?!?!

    If the potential for death didn’t swing the anti-vax crowd during the height of Covid…sigh.

  2. Mc says:

    58% vaccination rate?! These poor children being raised by idiot parents.

    • Meghan says:

      I am far away from NY but my first thought was “thank God my kid is fully vaxxed and up to date on everything.” I guess I might need a booster though, bah.

  3. Gizmo’sMa says:

    Looking at those vaccinations rates, Polio isn’t the only disease/virus that’s going to make a comeback. WTF??? There’s no herd immunity with rates that low. As a middle aged woman I’m old enough to remember adults that survived polio when I was a child. It’s horrible to see. And now you have idiots purposely putting their children and the immunocompromised at risk!! I’m so tired of the willful stupidity.

    • Soapboxpudding says:

      Same! My great uncle who died in the early 80s had a pretty useless left leg after contracting polio in childhood.

    • Chaine says:

      Me too. At one point I had a much older coworker who had braces on both legs and ambulated with crutches due to childhood polio paralysis.

    • SarahCS says:

      If anyone is interesting in the history of diseases and humanity I highly recommend a book called Murderous Contagion. It has chapters on all the key ones like polio, cholera, etc. and each chapter goes from what we know about when it first appeared through how we understood it and treated/cured/vaccinated/etc. up to the present day (well, a few years back). It’s brilliant.

  4. sunny says:

    This is wild! Like, is the DPT vaccine just not part of people’s vaccination schedules anymore? Or is medical access so weak that people just never received the shots in the first place because I don’t know that even vaccine skepticism could account for a rate that low(being sketchy about vaccines seems more like a thing that has emerged during that last 20 years or so).

    What I can’t get out of my mind is that the March of Dimes charity was originally founded to fight polio. It is one of the few examples of a charity that was able to totally pivot its mandate in the 1960’s because the original challenge it was working on was largely fixed. Now I imagine their leadership meeting and being like, “I guess we are still about polio”

    • Kim says:

      DPT covers diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), and tetanus. Inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) is the only polio vaccine used in the United States since 2000. It’s administered as a shot in the arm or leg, depending on age. Oral polio vaccine (OPV) is used in other countries.

      • sunny says:

        That is super helpful @kim. Are vaccines that are needed easily accessible?

      • JustStoppingBy says:

        @sunny Totally. Every pediatrician gives them out steadily, and they’re easy to schedule at pharmacies.

        The CDC’s recommended timeline for kids is here:

        Not polio, but adults usually get TDaP or DPT (different formulations, basically the same thing) every 10 years, and the pertussis shot is important if you’re about to be around an unprotected infant, so parents and grandparents are encouraged to get one during the pregnancy.

  5. Merricat says:

    This makes me so angry. Children will suffer because adults are hubristic.

  6. HeatherC says:

    This angers me more than I can say. My father had polio as a child (1950, pre vaccine). It affected him immediately and continued to affect him until the day he passed. I firmly believe that Post Polio syndrome prevented an early cancer diagnosis because the early symptoms he chalked up to PPS. I watched his gait become more labored as he got older, the fatigue set in faster.

    I grew up with stories that when the vaccine was available my grandmother dragged everyone (but my dad obviously) to wait in line to get the vaccine…including my grandfather and her older children.

    The likes of Andrew Wakefield have blood on their hands for this….vaccines do not cause autism. And as the mom of a child living on the spectrum, I’m further enraged that people believe a dead child is better than autism.

    The likes of the militant “pro life” share the blood. Fetal cells from aborted fetuses invading your body and all other pseudoscience.

    Because of my dad and my son, I am a pro vaxxer, a rabid one at that. The anti vaxx movement and the crunchy Granola sunning their hee haws moms are akin to Christianity’s Satan in my book and they’ve endangered everyone

    • Merricat says:

      Well said.

    • Cait c says:

      Don’t forget RFK Jr he has been a loud proud ant-vaxxer since for the longest. His children are all vaccinated and even if they weren’t they have the best health insurance that money can buy. Rfk Jr operates on pure hubris. He never got the attention JFK Jr did and always felt he was owed it.

  7. Emmi says:

    Well, great. Polio? POLIO??? We truly live in the age of idiocy. I’m not even 40 and my parents remember(ed) many instances of polio making the rounds in their respective small towns. The fear was real. A friend recently had a baby and was talking to her husband about vaccinations and which ones he thought they should do (she’s not anti-vaxx by any means but you have that tiny baby and suddenly all needles seem barbaric) and he, without hesitation, went “What do you mean? Whatever is recommended, obviously!”

    • EB says:

      I find it really strange that it is acceptable to pick and chose which vaccines to get like it’s an a la carte menu.

      • Emmi says:

        Because I know her and know that it doesn’t come from a perspective of “I know better” at ALL, I know that she was always going to vaccinate her baby according to the plan (it’s Germany, we have fewer vaccinations than the US I think). But it’s a lot more than we got as kids so sure, it can seem overwhelming when you hold that tiny baby. I didn’t get the pertussis vaccine as a kid because my pediatritian didn’t think it was vital at the time.

      • Emmi says:

        Nope, sorry, I checked. Immunization plans are almost identical.

      • JanetDR says:

        I know a lot of people who vax their children more spaced out. It means a couple of extra visits, but I get the appeal of that.

  8. Pork Chops and Applesauce says:

    Well, these are all home schoolers because I believe you must be vaccinated in order to attend traditional schools. Who doesn’t want to be safe from POLIO?!?

    • Christine says:

      That was my thought as well, although maybe private schools don’t require vaccinations?

    • salmonpuff says:

      I don’t know about New York, but in my state it’s ridiculously easy to get an exemption and still attend public school. My kids go to school with many unvaccinated children.

    • Cait says:

      You can also attend a yeshiva without vaccinations.

  9. Jeanne Arbuckle says:

    Stop being ignorant and vaccinate your kids.

  10. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    I’m sorry, but the unvaccinated deserve it. I mean it. My compassion for idiots has taken a nosedive.

  11. lanne says:

    Anyone who wants their kids to be unvaccinated should be made to watch videos of children with polio, children with measles, and children suffering from pertussis. If they see what can happen to their kids if they contract these illnesses, perhaps some would make more informed decisions.

    If they can make women watch videos about abortions, or listen to fake “complications from abortion” material, surely they can make parents get information about childhood diseases.

  12. Catcan says:

    The people in America who aren’t vaccinating their children tend to be educated, higher socioeconomic status. They want the benefits of herd immunity without injecting their precious baby with chemicals.
    They think they know better and that vaccination is a risk for the peasants who don’t bring their children up with organic everything.
    However, now that these once mostly eradicated diseases are coming back thanks to their stupidity, watch who will RUSH to get their children vaccinated!

  13. Kkat says:

    My Great Aunt and My Great Uncle both had polio. She was late 20’s and he was early 20’s when they got it. Which isn’t great, it’s generally harder on that age group as far as paralysis and other damage.
    My Aunt was paralyzed from the waist down, she could feel everything but couldn’t move her legs. She had lots of pain and was bed bound for about 45 years.

    My Uncle was fully paralyzed and was in an iron lung for 3 years. He eventually recovered enough he could walk, but with bad limp and his arm and hand were affected. And had pain til he died in his 90’s.

    My Aunt was in Michigan when she got it and my Uncle was in California, so it was very much nation wide.

    My Grandmother ( Aunt’s sister) was terrified (very very phobic) of cats and house flies .
    Because they thought it was cats carrying it, they killed millions of cats. And then they thought it was flies that carried it.

    I used to get paid 10¢ a fly I killed as a kid, great money making opportunity.

    I’m 53, most of these unvaccinated (and have unvaccinated kids) idiots are younger. They have never seen the damage or known anyone personally that has it (or measles, mumps, ect)
    So they don’t think it’s real.

    They won’t get their kids vaccinated until it’s bad and the hospitals are over run with sick and dying kids.
    I really f*ucking hate anti vaxxors

    AND both my kids are on the spectrum and so am I. The bullshit about vaccines causing autism make me furious, a dead child is NOT better than autism.

    Another fun thing, I just read an article saying we have over 4,500 cases of monkey pox in California. In May we had TWO cases. T W O.
    So I think that’s going to become a nightmare too.

  14. jwoolman says:

    I was surprised to hear that there are still routine vaccinations against polio. I thought its incidence was too low for that now. I was vaccinated for smallpox as a baby, but it got to that point (where the risk of a vaccine is greater than the risk of a disease).

    I was in the last generation considered at risk for polio, my best friend had it as a baby and so did her older sister. They both had a leg brace on one leg for years. We knew another older girl in a wheelchair from it. Public swimming pools had been closed during the height of the epidemic, but they were always open in my childhood.

    But then when I was in grade school, the vaccine came along. I only remember the oral vaccine, administered in sugar cubes.

    The disease was already on its way out by then, as was the common pattern with vaccines. The disease is recognized earlier, contagious people are isolated earlier, and public health precautions make a big dent in its spread. The resistance against COVID precautions is freaky, but apparently public health officials had similar problems during the 1918 flu pandemic.

    I never knew anybody younger than me with polio here in the US even before the vaccine. But I think it is still a problem in some other countries, so there would be a slim chance of it being reintroduced here.

    So is polio vaccination still routine, or is this just a fluke reappearance and so now vaccinations are being rolled out again?

  15. HME says:

    So looking at the vaccine schedule Polio is one of the ones that you are supposed to get as an infant and child (which means I would have gotten it, phew!) so I’m sure that this can probably at least be partially linked to the Wakefield and Jenny McCarthy “vaccines cause autism” fear mongering. Ugh.

    And speaking of Jenny f-cking McCarthy I can remember seeing her on Larry King back at the height of her anti vaccine crusade. The other guest was a Doctor to give the “other side” (that the likes of Larry King and Oprah put Jenny F-CKING McCarthy on equal ground with Doctors and scientists still makes me so angry) and Jenny was going on about the “aggressive” vaccine schedule for babies and kids and how it was too many too soon and can’t some of them be skipped or delayed and finally the Doctor got frustrated and just flat out said something like “pick which diseases you want kids to get then”. Jenny got all offended of course but the Doctor just shrugged and was like that’s what’s going to happen if we let parents pick and choose which vaccines their kids get and when, these diseases are going to come back. And look where we are now? Polio, freaking POLIO is on the rise again.

  16. Mary says:

    “I just read an article saying we have over 4,500 cases of monkey pox in California. In May we had TWO cases. T W O.
    So I think that’s going to become a nightmare too.”

    @kkat, in August, not long after the discovery of the poliovirus in New York, I had a medical appointment in a hospital. In addition to the now typical covid-19 exposure questions they were already asking about possible exposure to the monkeypox virus. At the time, I joked that soon we will all be asked questions about potential polio exposure. Sadly, if the vaccination rates are that abysmally low throughout the country, I may not have been far off.