Chicago: Wastewater testing for polio begins, No cases identified in Chicago or Illinois


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the The Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) is expanding its existing wastewater monitoring program to begin testing for poliovirus.


Sewage testing began this week to analyze water samples collected from area reclamation plants serving the city of Chicago and surrounding Cook County suburbs. The effort is a collaboration between CDPH and scientists from the University of Illinois Chicago, the Regional Public Health Innovative Laboratory at Rush University Medical Center, the University of Illinois System Discovery Partners Institute, the Illinois Department of Public Health, and the DC Water Reclamation District. Greater Chicago, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As part of this monitoring, wastewater samples will be routinely collected and processed for laboratory testing for poliovirus to see if poliovirus is present and to understand whether the type of poliovirus present is of concern.

While no cases of paralytic polio have been identified in Chicago or Illinois at this time, CDPH is proactively building its local capacity to detect and respond to any potential polio case. The best way to protect everyone from polio is to maintain high immunity against poliovirus in the population through vaccination.

in July 2022a case of paralytic polio was identified in a New York state resident, and further wastewater testing detected poliovirus in water samples collected across multiple counties with low polio vaccination rates, indicating possible local spread of the virus in those community areas.

Finding poliovirus in wastewater indicates that someone in the community is releasing poliovirus. Wastewater data cannot be used to identify or quantify infected people or the number of people or households affected, but the data can enhance other monitoring methods used for polio prevention. Not all potential detections will be a cause for concern. However, if certain strains of poliovirus are found in communities with low vaccination rates, they can spread among unvaccinated individuals, putting them at risk of infection and polio. Anyone who has not been vaccinated or who has been incompletely vaccinated is at risk of developing paralysis if they are infected with poliovirus.

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Polio has been eradicated in the United States since 1979; However, a recent case in 2022 in New York State highlights the importance of rapid detection to stop any new outbreaks and to boost routine immunization, which is the national best defense against polio.”

Polio can lead to permanent paralysis of the arms and legs and can be fatal due to paralysis of the muscles used for breathing or swallowing. Most people infected with the virus show no symptoms, although some may develop flu-like symptoms, such as sore throat, fever, fatigue, nausea, and stomach pain. One in 25 people infected with poliovirus will develop meningitis and one in 200 will develop paralysis. Although there is no cure for polio, it can be prevented through safe and effective immunization.

Giant microbes

In the United States, the risk of contracting polio is very low. Most people are vaccinated against polio in childhood, and this provides protection against serious diseases, including paralyzing polio. Studies show that people who complete the polio vaccination during childhood are likely to be protected throughout adulthood.

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