New York State Governor Kathy Hochul declared a disaster state of emergency on Sept. 9 regarding the recent spike in positive polio cases in an attempt to increase vaccination rates.
The governor issued an executive order on Friday regarding the emergency, which allows Emergency Medical Services (EMS) workers, midwives and pharmacists to administer the vaccine.
“On polio, we simply cannot roll the dice,” the state’s health commissioner, Dr. Mary Bassett said in a statement Friday. “If you or your child are unvaccinated or not up to date with vaccinations, the risk of paralytic disease is real.”
Healthcare officials began testing wastewater across the state for the polio virus after a resident in Rockland County tested positive in July. As of Friday, officials have found samples of the virus in Rockland, Orange, Sullivan and Nassau counties as well as in New York City.
While approximately 70% of those infected with polio do not exhibit symptoms, the virus can be incredibly dangerous and can cause paralysis and even be deadly if not addressed quickly.
It spreads usually by entering the mouth, usually through hands that have been in contact with the stool of an infected individual.
Governor Hochul and healthcare professionals recommend vaccination especially in children two months or older and pregnant people. All school-aged children in New York are required to receive the vaccine before they begin classes, which means a significant portion of the population is already vaccinated.
However, if you or your child are not it is crucial to do so right away.
“Polio immunization is safe and effective — protecting nearly all people against disease who receive the recommended doses,” Dr. Bassett said. “If you are unsure of 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.”