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’s sewage, reports The Gothamist.
The new finding suggests there is community transmission in all five boroughs, which means unvaccinated New Yorkers are at risk.
“The risk to New Yorkers is real but the defense is so simple – get the polio shot,” said NYC Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan. “Polio is completely preventable and its reappearance should be a call to action for all of us.”
Most New York children and adults have already received the polio vaccine, which is required by the New York State Department of Health and is 99 percent effective. But among the unvaccinated, there are nearly 14% of children under five.
Childhood vaccination rates vary widely from neighborhood to neighborhood for children 6 months to 5 years old. In Greenpoint, Brooklyn, 99% of children are fully immunized, but in nearby Williamsburg only 56% can say the same. The citywide rate is 86%, which is higher than the state average of 78%.
Children can get the polio vaccine at their doctor’s office or at the New York Department of Health’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) for help finding one.
Health officials say they are investigating possible cases, but the best protection against the spread of polio is vaccination.