New York State Department of Health Urges All New Yorkers Traveling to Israel to Get Fully Immunized Against Polio

Encourages Those Traveling to Countries with Circulating Poliovirus to Practice Enhanced Precautions

ALBANY, N.Y. (March 10, 2023) – The New York State Department of Health today urged all New Yorkers planning travel this spring to Israel and other countries with circulating poliovirus to get fully immunized against polio and to follow CDC recommendations for such travel.

In recent days, Israel's Ministry of Health confirmed four children had tested positive for poliovirus in Northern Israel, after one unvaccinated child presented symptoms of paralysis. The other three children are currently asymptomatic. Israel has additionally reported widespread detection of poliovirus in wastewater systems. This latest outbreak follows one that was detected in February 2022 when seven children tested positive for poliovirus in Jerusalem, six of whom were asymptomatic, and after which Israel launched a nationwide vaccination campaign to prevent further spread of the virus. With the latest case, New York health officials have been in contact with their Israeli counterparts to ensure a coordinated response.

Polio is a highly contagious, life-threatening disease that affects the nervous system and can cause muscle weakness, paralysis, and even death. It is spreads from person-to-person through contact with the fecal matter of an infected person, which is why thorough handwashing is encouraged for anyone who may come in contact with infected persons.

Since a paralytic case of polio in New York State was identified by the state's Wadsworth Center in an unvaccinated adult from Rockland County in July 2022, the New York State Department of Health has been closely monitoring for the paralytic polio virus in New York State. The Department immediately mounted a robust response, working with CDC and local health departments to enhance clinical surveillance, expand wastewater surveillance, and launch immunization efforts in the affected counties. To date, no additional cases of the paralytic polio virus have been identified in New York State.

The CDC currently recommends enhanced precautions for travelers visiting a host of countries with circulating polio, including the United Kingdom, Ukraine, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Indonesia, Nigeria, Côte d'Ivoire, and several other central African countries, as well as Israel.

The surest way to avoid illness is to be immunized with safe and effective polio vaccines. However, it is important to note that not everyone who is unvaccinated and infected with polio will show symptoms. Some have mild or flu-like symptoms that can be easily mistaken for another type of virus, and others have no symptoms at all. Still, all infected people can spread the virus and infect others, even without symptoms. The best way individuals can ensure they are protected from Polio is by making sure they are up to date with polio immunizations. Polio immunization is safe, effective, and the most fundamental protection individuals can keep themselves and their children healthy and safe.

New Yorkers can learn more about polio immunization here and find the latest wastewater surveillance results here.