Hundreds in New York state may be infected with polio virus

New York state health officials have found indications of additional cases of polio virus in wastewater samples from two different counties, leading them to warn that hundreds of people may be infected with the potentially serious virus…

“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,” State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said. “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. As we learn more, what we do know is clear: the danger of polio is present in New York today…”

Polio is “a serious and life-threatening disease,” the state health department said. It is highly contagious and can be spread by people who aren’t yet symptomatic. Symptoms usually appear within 30 days of infection, and can be mild or flu-like. Some people who are infected may become paralyzed or die.

Before the polio vaccine was introduced in the 1950s, thousands of Americans died in polio outbreaks and tens of thousands, many of them children, were left with paralysis. After a successful vaccination campaign, polio was officially declared eradicated in the U.S. in 1979.

The scariest words I’ve read in decades. I was a schoolkid in a New England factory town during the years of peak polio waves, every summer. I had peers who were infected. Some who died. Some who were paralyzed for life. Commonplace before Dr. Salk’s vaccine.

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