CDC expands polio wastewater testing to Oakland County

‘Vaccination remains the best way to prevent another case of paralytic polio’

FILE - A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sign stands at the entrance of their offices in Atlanta on Tuesday, April 19, 2022. (AP Photo/Ron Harris, File) (Ron Harris, Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

OAKLAND COUNTY, Mich.The CDC is expanding its wastewater testing for poliovirus across the country and Oakland County, Michigan, is joining the list of areas that will be tested.

Oakland County is among the first locations to explore plans to start collecting wastewater samples in specific communities for analysis at CDC’s polio laboratory. Once testing begins, the communities will test for polio in sewage for at least four months.

The findings will help jurisdictions prioritize vaccination efforts in communities of concern. Wastewater testing will take place in counties with potentially low polio vaccination coverage, or counties with possible connections to the at-risk New York communities that are linked to a single case of paralytic polio.

“Wastewater testing can be an important tool to help us understand if poliovirus may be circulating in communities in certain circumstances,” said Dr. José R. Romero, Director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “Vaccination remains the best way to prevent another case of paralytic polio, and it is critically important that people get vaccinated to protect themselves, their families and their communities against this devastating disease.”

Poliovirus wastewater testing is not routinely or broadly recommended but the strategic use of testing in a limited number of at-risk communities can help determine if poliovirus is present. The information can be used to target vaccination efforts to rapidly improve polio vaccination coverage if it’s needed.

If poliovirus is found in sewage or wastewater, it 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 are infected.

Strains of poliovirus can be shed in people’s stool without symptoms, which puts unvaccinated people at risk, according to the CDC. Not all potential detections will be cause for concern. More than 92% of Americans were vaccinated against polio during childhood.

The complete recommended polio vaccination series is extremely effective in preventing paralytic polio, and the vaccine protects against severe disease in almost everyone who has received the recommended doses. Access to clean drinking water, modern sewage systems and wastewater management further help prevent viruses like poliovirus from spreading, according to the CDC.

You can click here to learn more about the polio vaccine from the CDC.

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Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.