The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it will be testing wastewater samples in Michigan and Pennsylvania as it expands its efforts in looking for signs of polio in sewage.
The CDC said Wednesday in a news release that sewage samples in Oakland County in Michigan and Philadelphia will be gathered for analysis. In September, the CDC said an unvaccinated adult in New York's Rockland County was diagnosed with paralytic polio. The agency proceeded to test sewage samples in several communities near the patient's residence.
"Wastewater testing can be an important tool to help us understand if poliovirus may be circulating in communities in certain circumstances," said Dr. José R. Romero, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, in the release. "Vaccination remains the best way to prevent another case of paralytic polio, and it is critically important that people get vaccinated to protect themselves, their families and their communities against this devastating disease."
The CDC said the virus' genetic sequences from the Rockland County patient and sewage specimens collected in New York have been linked to sewage samples in Jerusalem and London, indicating community transmission. Polio, once one of the most feared diseases in the country, was believed to have been eradicated in the U.S. in 1979 because of widespread vaccination. But it is believed to have been brought into the country from foreign travelers.
The CDC said it will test in counties with potentially low polio vaccination coverage, or counties with possible connections to the at-risk New York communities that are linked to the case in Rockland County. The testing will last at least four months.
The CDC said it wouldn't be surprising if the virus is found in sewage samples because strains of polio can be shed in people's stool without symptoms, putting the unvaccinated at risk. But it said potential detections are not a cause for concern.
"In the United States, the risk to the public is low because most people — greater than 92% of Americans — were vaccinated during childhood," the CDC said. "The complete recommended polio vaccination series is extremely effective in preventing paralytic polio, and the vaccine protects against severe disease in almost everyone who has received the recommended doses.
"Access to clean drinking water, modern sewage systems and wastewater management further help prevent viruses like poliovirus from spreading."
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