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No polio virus found in NY county wastewater 6 months after Jewish man was paralyzed

Rockland County, which has highest per capita Jewish population in the US, reports 14,000 vaccine doses given since July

No traces of polio virus were found in recent wastewater samples in the New York county where the disease left a Jewish man paralyzed in July. 

More than 14,000 people in Rockland County have been vaccinated since the case made headlines. A public health vaccination campaign is ongoing.

Almost 50 samples taken in Rockland County in November and December turned up negative for the virus. That’s in stark contrast to a 50% positivity rate in August, when 21 samples out of 52 contained virus traces. 

In December, only Orange County, just north of Rockland, continued to show signs of the virus circulating, with two samples coming up positive out of 30 taken last month.

The July case, in which an Orthodox man in his 50s became the first person in New York to contract paralytic polio since 1990, set off an urgent public health campaign encouraging inoculation, particularly among young children. 

The latest on vaccinations

Vaccination against polio is mandatory for attendance in New York’s public and private schools, so most adults had already received the shots, but many children under school age had not. According to the New York School Immunization Survey, 99% of children attending schools in the state have received all three of the required polio jabs. 

Since the active case in July, 14,071 doses have been administered in the county, Rockland health officials said Monday. Children age 4 and younger received 77% of those vaccinations. Another 17% of the doses were given to children between the ages of 5 and 18.

Just over 60% of children in Rockland age 2 and younger had been fully vaccinated as of Aug. 1, the most recent date for which statistics were available. The health department was unable to provide data showing how that rate has changed as a result of the recent campaign. 

With 90,000 Jews calling Rockland County home, it has the largest Jewish population per capita — 31% — of any U.S. county. Public health officials have coordinated with Jewish groups to promote vaccination, particularly among the local Orthodox population. As part of the campaign, well-known author and polio survivor Chava Willig Levy released a video detailing her childhood battle with the disease, which left her paralyzed and requiring an electric wheelchair.

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