Polio Found In NYC’s Sewage | Threatening A Comeback Of The Virus

Nikki Attkisson | Last Updated : August 15, 2022

Recent samples taken from New York City’s sewage system suggest that polio may have returned to the U.S., according to statements made by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 

In the sample, two polio strains were detected, one an oral polio vaccine (OPV) strain from the 1950s and another live polio virus that could be responsible for giving other people polio as well. 

This comes at a time when more than 100 countries are beginning to switch from OPV to inactivated polio vaccines (IPV), both of which have been used extensively since their development in the 1950s and 1960s, respectively.

Polio Found In New York City’s Sewage!

Polio has been eradicated in developed countries since the 1950s, but it hasn’t been entirely wiped out just yet. The World Health Organization (WHO) announced that it has detected the virus in New York City’s sewage system, suggesting that the polio virus is beginning to circulate again in the U.S., and could eventually cause cases of polio to show up in developing countries where the disease hasn’t been eliminated. 

Polio Found In NYC's Sewage, Threatening A Comeback Of The Virus

If that happens, many children and adults may not be protected from the virus because they never received immunizations during its last major outbreak in the 1960s. The U.S.

Why does polio keep coming back?

Polio was once common in the United States, but thanks to vaccination, it was largely eradicated. However, the virus still exists in some parts of the world, and there have been recent outbreaks. 

So why does polio keep coming back? The World Health Organization (WHO) says much of the blame falls on low immunization rates. In 2013, it was estimated that about 124 countries were still not fully vaccinated against polio. 

As populations grow larger, so do the chances for more people to come into contact with the virus. Even though polio has only caused 10 cases worldwide this year, experts warn that if proper measures are not taken soon then we may see an epidemic like what happened in 1988.

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How can people catch polio?

Most people infected with poliovirus have no symptoms. For those who do get sick, initial symptoms include fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, stiffness in the neck, and pain in the limbs. 

In a small proportion of cases, the virus infects the brain and spinal cord causing paralysis (can’t move arms or legs). People with milder illnesses recover completely while those with more severe illnesses may require ongoing treatment and care. 

Polio can be spread when someone comes into contact with fecal matter from an infected person. The virus can enter through the mouth, nose, eyes or skin wounds. It is also spread by contaminated food and water as well as contact with contaminated surfaces.

 Once inside the body, it invades nerves that carry messages to muscles and eventually causes them to stop working. There is no cure for polio but it can be prevented by immunization (shots) given before exposure to the virus.

What are public health officials doing about it?

In response to the discovery of polio in New York City’s sewage, public health officials are urging residents to get vaccinated and are increasing surveillance of the virus. They are also working to track down the source of the virus and contain its spread. 

There have been no reports of people getting sick from it so far. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is warning that the virus can travel through contaminated water or food and that it can live outside the body for many hours. 

Polio is highly contagious and can cause permanent paralysis within hours of exposure. It affects children more than adults, but anyone who isn’t immune to the disease could become infected if they come into contact with an infected person’s saliva or stool. 

Children under five years old have an increased risk of developing severe cases of polio as well as spreading it to others. A vaccine exists that protects against all three types of polio, but not everyone has received it yet due to uneven vaccination rates around the world.

What can you do about it?

The polio vaccine is safe and effective, and it’s the only way to prevent this disease. So, the best way to protect yourself and your family from polio is to get vaccinated. And if you’re pregnant or plan on becoming pregnant soon, make sure you’re up-to-date with the polio vaccine before you travel abroad so that your baby won’t be at risk for contracting polio. 


🔵 BNN Bloomberg(n.d)Polio Virus Is Detected in New York City’s Sewage System(Available Online)https://www.bnnbloomberg.ca/polio-virus-is-detected-in-new-york-city-s-sewage-system-1.1805011

🔵 NPR(n.d)Q&A: The polio virus was detected in New York City wastewater. Do you need to worry? (Available Online)https://www.npr.org/2022/08/12/1117187591/polio-nyc-wastewater-what-to-do

Nikki Attkisson

With over 15 years as a practicing journalist, Nikki Attkisson found herself at Powdersville Post now after working at several other publications. She is an award-winning journalist with an entrepreneurial spirit and worked as a journalist covering technology, innovation, environmental issues, politics, health etc. Nikki Attkisson has also worked on product development, content strategy, and editorial management for numerous media companies. She began her career at local news stations and worked as a reporter in national newspapers.

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