The CDC will expand its polio testing program to include wastewater treatment plants in Michigan and Pennsylvania, it announced Wednesday.
The CDC clarified that the vast majority of Americans — roughly 92% — were vaccinated against polio as children and therefore have little to fear from the spread. The group says it expects to find traces of poliovirus in the wastewater system that could pose a danger to those who are unvaccinated, however.
"Finding poliovirus in sewage or wastewater indicates that someone in the community is shedding poliovirus. Wastewater data cannot be used to determine or identify who is infected or how many people or households are affected," the CDC wrote. "But it can enhance other data that are used as part of polio prevention programs, including rapid investigation of suspected polio cases."
The CDC's program comes just months after Democratic New York Gov. Kathy Hochul declared a statewide disaster emergency after the virus was found to be spreading in her state.
The CDC found poliovirus in the wastewater of Rockland County, Orange County, Sullivan County, New York City, and Nassau County in New York. So far, only one case of paralytic polio has been detected, and that took place in Rockland County.
"On polio, we simply cannot roll the dice," New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett said in September. "If you or your child are unvaccinated or not up to date with vaccinations, the risk of paralytic disease is real."
"Do not wait to vaccinate. If you are unsure of you or 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," she added.
NY health officials instructed individuals who have previously completed their polio vaccine series to receive a lifetime booster of IPV if they will or might have close contact with a person who is suspected to be infected, are healthcare workers in areas where poliovirus has been detected, or have occupational exposure to wastewater.