Polio Fears Rise in New York Amid Possible Community Spread

This 2014 illustration made available by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention depicts a polio virus particle. On Thursday, July 21, 2022, New York health officials reported a polio case, the first in the U.S. in nearly a decade. (Sarah Poser, Meredith Boyter Newlove/CDC via AP)

New York state health officials issued a more urgent call Thursday for unvaccinated children and adults to get inoculated against polio, citing new evidence of possible “community spread” of the dangerous virus.

The polio virus has now been found in seven different wastewater samples in two adjacent counties north of New York City, health officials said.

So far, only one person has tested positive for polio — an unvaccinated adult in Rockland County who suffered paralysis.

But based on earlier polio outbreaks, “New Yorkers should know that for every one case of paralytic polio observed, there may be hundreds of other people infected,” the state’s health commissioner, Dr. Mary T. Bassett, said in a statement.

“Coupled with the latest wastewater findings, the Department is treating the single case of polio as just the tip of the iceberg of much greater potential spread,” she said. “As we learn more, what we do know is clear: the danger of polio is present in New York today. We must meet this moment by ensuring that adults, including pregnant people, and young children by 2 months of age are up to date with their immunization — the safe protection against this debilitating virus that every New Yorker needs.”

The polio patient in Rockland County is the first person known to be infected with the virus in the U.S. in nearly a decade. Wastewater samples collected in June and July in adjacent Orange County also contained the virus.

Polio, once one of the nation’s most feared diseases, was declared eliminated in the United States in 1979, more than two decades after vaccines became available.

A majority of people infected with polio have no symptoms, but can still shed the virus and give it to others for days or weeks. A small percentage of people who get the disease suffer paralysis. The disease is fatal for between 5-10% of those paralyzed.

All school children in New York are required to have a polio vaccine, but enforcement of vaccination rules in some areas can be lax. Rockland and Orange counties are both known as centers of vaccine resistance. Statewide, about 79% of have completed their polio vaccination series by age two. In Orange County, that rate is 59%. In Rockland it is 60%.

The Orange County wastewater samples were initially collected from municipal wastewater treatment plants for COVID-19 testing.

“It is concerning that polio, a disease that has been largely eradicated through vaccination, is now circulating in our community, especially given the low rates of vaccination for this debilitating disease in certain areas of our County,” said Orange County Health Commissioner Irina Gelman said. “I urge all unvaccinated Orange County residents to get vaccinated as soon as medically feasible.”



  1. There is a good supply of a proven (well tested, non-experimental, and inexpensive) vaccine, so it won’t be hard to vaccinate any who hasn’t been vaccinated. Unlike the Covid vaccine, the polio one has a good record.

  2. “All school children in New York are required to have a polio vaccine”

    This is not the case in MOST states as vaccines are respected elsewhere as unproved THEORY. In other states, medical freedoms are tolerated, as it should be according to INTERNATIONAL LAW (under the Nuremberg Codes).

    For the privilege of being able to send our children to schools of any type (other than home-schooling), New York has forced the fallacious pharmaceutical industry narrative over the masses declaring vaccines safe and effective ‘because they so so’.

    Vaccines are NOT the reason the polio was LARGELY ERADICATED in the United States – or anywhere else.

  3. To help bring awareness of the vaccines to the YWN audience, in the strongest possible way I encourage the editors and moderators to only post articles and comments that will help with getting more people vaccinated.

  4. Considering that NY has some of the strictest vaccination laws in the country… one should only wonder why the outbreak began here and not say, in nowhere Oklahoma where vaccine rates are far far lower than NY

  5. Check Vaers.gov for all the adverse reactions to the polio vaccine. Plus my old neighbor became paralyzed in both his feet after he got the polio vaccine. He was well compensated so it was proven in court.

  6. The polio vaccine was developed almost 70 years ago, and immediately put an end to the frequent and devastating epidemics (it also put the manufacturers of “iron lungs” out of business, and disrupted the careers of the many health care personnel needed to treat the people who can down with polio).

    The answer to a fear about polio showing up in wastewater, is to get anyone un-vaccinated to get vaccinated, which is not super complex to manage.

  7. lastword’s statement that’s the polio epidemic wasn’t ended by vaccines is nonsense, and contradicted by empirical fact.

    Vaccines for diseases such as polio work. They may have side effects in a small number of cases, like any medical intervention (like medicine or surgery). They have saved countless lives.

    Please don’t let the past years debates regarding the Covid vaccine disrupt one’s approach to basic history and common sense.

  8. Lastword, as usual, is full of nonsense. I will just point out one particularly stupid claim — that the so-called “Nuremberg Code” is, and I quote him in capital letters, “INTERNATIONAL LAW”. Not only is there no such thing as “international law” in the sense he’s using it, the “Nuremberg Code” is not any kind of law. It’s a private document drawn up by a few people, expressing their own opinions and nothing more. It does not bind anyone, and it certainly doesn’t bind state governments in the USA.