New York urges residents to get vaccinated against polio before travel to Israel

Health department says it’s working with Jerusalem ‘to ensure a coordinated response’ after 4 cases of virus recently detected in Safed

File: A research assistant prepares a PCR reaction for polio at a lab at Queens College on August 25, 2022, in New York City. (Angela Weiss/AFP)
File: A research assistant prepares a PCR reaction for polio at a lab at Queens College on August 25, 2022, in New York City. (Angela Weiss/AFP)

The State of New York’s health department called for residents to get vaccinated against polio before traveling to Israel, where several children have recently tested positive for the virus.

In a statement Friday, the New York Department of Health noted the four cases diagnosed in the northern city of Safed earlier this month, a year after a small outbreak of the disease in the country.

It called on New Yorkers “to get fully immunized” before flying to Israel or other countries with polio.

Health officials in New York have been in touch with their Israeli counterparts “to ensure a coordinated response,” the statement said, adding that travelers should adhere to guidelines from the US Center for Disease Control.

Besides Israel, the statement noted the CDC has issued precautions against polio before traveling to the United Kingdom, Ukraine, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Indonesia, Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire and several other central African countries.

Polio is a viral disease that mainly affects children and can cause disability, paralysis and death. Today, polio vaccinations are standard for children and are an effective preventive measure, but vaccine skepticism has enabled the disease to pop up from time to time.

The outbreak in Israel last March, which came after the first case of polio in 33 years was discovered in the country, prompted a vaccination drive to combat the disease.

The finding landed Israel on the World Health Organization’s Polio Eradication Initiative’s list of countries with outbreaks, after it was declared polio-free in 1988.

Following the cases detected earlier this month, the Health Ministry cited evidence of polio spreading in sewage systems and said over 150,000 Israeli children are unvaccinated against the virus.

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