New York Health Department’s concern for polio grows deeper

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ALBANY, NY (WENY) – Thursday, New York State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett declared polio-virus an ‘imminent threat to public health’ in the state.

Polio-virus was previously thought to be eradicated in 1955, following its initial outbreak in the U.S. in 1952.

Community health advocate, Elisabeth Benjamin has had a long history with polio-virus. She worker for years in other countries where she saw polio patients. And her now 91-year-old mother had polio as a young girl.

“It’s not a good disease to retract, it’s not a good disease to recover from, if you’re so lucky and it can be lethal,” she said.

Polio can have a range of symptoms from a fever and a sore throat to paralysis and even death, according to the Center for Disease Control.

The first polio case in nearly a decade was reported to the New York State Department of Health and Dockland County Department of Health on July 21 of this year. And on Aug. 12, health officials reported finding evidence of polio-virus in New York City’s waste water samples.

Peter Buzzetti III, Public Health Director for Chemung County Health Department, said they haven’t seen any cases of polio in Chemung County. However, they are working on getting approval to start doing waste water sample tests.

“If we look at a silver lining, one of the things that came out of COVID was the importance of what waste-water testing can do for us in terms of what the true incidence of disease is in the population,” he said.

To combat the spread, Gov. Kathy Hochul officially declared a state of emergency for polio on Sep. 9 and is currently working with New York’s health department to expand funding and resources for local counties.

Buzzetti said Chemung County will be offering vaccine clinics at the health department soon.


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