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Gov. Hochul takes new steps to fight polio amid outbreak in New York: ‘An imminent threat to public health’

The New York Daily News - 9/28/2022

Gov. Hochul announced new steps to combat the outbreak of polio in several suburban New York counties and New York City.

The governor said on Wednesday that fresh measures would bolster coordination between state and local health departments and improve vaccination rates, especially among children.

“We’ve taken an aggressive public health approach to combat the spread of polio and ensure New Yorkers are protected,” Hochul said in a statement. “This declaration will bolster our ongoing efforts to protect New Yorkers against paralytic disease (and) prevent spread.”

New York State Health Commissioner Mary Bassett declared polio as an “immediate threat to public health” — a move that unlocks money and other resources to increase vaccinations.

“Our focus remains on ensuring the on-time administration of polio vaccination among young children and catching kids and adults up who are un-immunized and under-immunized in the affected areas,” Bassett said. “That work continues at full force.”

The declaration means county and local agencies can be reimbursed by the state for actions to combat polio starting from July 21 through the end of 2022.

Polio, which was declared eliminated in the U.S. in 1979, was detected in an unvaccinated person in Rockland County in late July. Officials have since detected traces of the deadly virus in wastewater collected from Rockland County, Orange County, and Sullivan County as well as detected in samples collected from New York City and Nassau County.

About 26,000 polio vaccines have been administered in the affected areas since July, a 25% increase from last year, officials said.

Vaccination of children before they are 2 years old remains the primary weapon to fight polio, a serious and highly contagious disease that affects the nervous system and can cause muscle weakness, paralysis, or death.

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