CDPH starts checking for polio in wastewater
The Chicago Department of Public Health last week began testing the city and surrounding suburbs’ wastewater for polio.
The decision follows a paralytic polio case in New York over the summer, which spurred talks on how to best mitigate the virus, even though the United States eradicated it in 1979.
CDPH Deputy Commissioner Massimo Pacilli said in a statement the case “highlights the importance of rapid detection to interrupt any new outbreaks and strengthen routine immunization, which is the best national defense against polio.”
There are currently no reported paralytic polio cases in Illinois.
The city already tests wastewater for the coronavirus and influenza. CDPH said this monitoring does not violate resident privacy.
“Wastewater data cannot be used to determine or identify who is infected or how many people or households are affected, but it can enhance other data and surveillance methods used to prevent polio,” they said.
CDPH advises residents to get vaccine protection against polio if they have not already.
While more rare, paralytic polio can affect anyone who is not vaccinated for it.
“The fact that somebody in New York was diagnosed with paralytic polio means that there was enough of it circulating in the community,” said Rachel Poretsky, an associate professor of biological sciences at the University of Illinois Chicago. The university is one of the institutions running the wastewater surveillance program.
While some initially said that thought the New York case was not a cause for concern, Stefan Green, head of the Rush University Medical Center’s Regional Innovative Public Health Laboratory, said he is glad the city moved forward with wastewater testing.
“Can we step in when we observe something before it becomes an epidemic?” Green said. “Our hope is that, of course, we don’t detect any (polio), but we want to be prepared if we do.”
– Elizabeth Casolo for Health News Illinois