Do I Need to Get A Polio Vaccine? New York Sewer Discovery Triggers Fears About Paralysis-Inducing Virus

Zinger Key Points
  • Health officials suspect hundreds of people could be infected with polio in New York City.
  • Polio causes paralysis in one out of every 200 people who have not been vaccinated against it.

New York officials have detected polio in the city's wastewater, suggesting the virus has been circulating in the local area.

What Happened? On Friday, New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett said city health officials are working to determine how much the polio virus has spread after it was detected in the city's wastewater. Bassett has called on all New York residents that have not been vaccinated for polio to do so immediately.

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Why It's Important: Most people who catch polio have no symptoms, but one out of every 25 people who contract the polio virus develop viral meningitis, an inflammation of the brain and spinal cord membranes. There is no cure for polio, and roughly one in 200 unvaccinated people who catch the virus become paralyzed.

The U.S. was declared polio-free in 1979, but travelers have occasionally brought the disease into the country throughout the years. Prior to 2022, the last confirmed U.S. case of polio occurred in 2013.

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As of 2019, the CDC reported nearly 93% of U.S. children had received three or more doses of the polio vaccine by age 2. About 99% of children who receive the recommended vaccinations are protected from the virus.

Poliovirus is very contagious and spreads commonly through contact with the feces of an infected person and rarely through droplets from a sneeze or cough of an infected person.

Leading polio vaccine makers include GSK plc GSK and Sanofi SA SNY.

Benzinga's Take: GSK and Sanofi's stocks both traded lower on the week because of growing concerns over the negative financial impact of lawsuits related to heartburn medication Zantac. So far there has only been one confirmed case of polio in the U.S., but officials say the virus' presence in the New York City wastewater suggests there could be several hundred unconfirmed and asymptomatic cases in the area.

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