Infectious Disease

CDC to expand wastewater testing for poliovirus

November 30, 2022

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The CDC said Wednesday that it will expand wastewater testing for poliovirus in certain US jurisdictions, including Michigan and Philadelphia.

The announcement comes months after officials raised alarm over a case of vaccine-derived polio in New York state and the detection of poliovirus in wastewater in numerous New York counties, which landed the US on a small list of countries with circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus.

The CDC said Wednesday that it will expand wastewater testing for poliovirus in certain US jurisdictions, including Michigan and Philadelphia. Source: Adobe Stock

New wastewater testing for poliovirus will begin in jurisdictions covered by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and Philadelphia Department of Public Health. The CDC said it was having “preliminary discussions with select other state and local health departments” about adding wastewater testing the CDC said in a statement.

“The findings from CDC’s strategic wastewater testing effort will help jurisdictions prioritize vaccination efforts in identified communities of concern,” the agency said. “Wastewater testing will occur in certain 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 in Rockland County, New York. Once initiated, testing will last at least 4 months.”

The CDC clarified that testing for poliovirus is different from testing for other pathogens, such as COVID-19.

“Poliovirus wastewater testing is not routinely or broadly recommended, and there are strict laboratory safety requirements,” they said. “However, the strategic use of wastewater testing in a limited number of at-risk communities can help determine if poliovirus is present in other parts of the United States and can be used to target vaccination efforts to rapidly improve local polio vaccination coverage if needed. Over the next few months, the CDC will assist the selected jurisdictions in testing wastewater and will support them in responding to positive wastewater detections and improving vaccination rates if requested.”

Jose R. Romero

Jose R. Romero, MDdirector of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease, encouraged people to get vaccinated.

“Wastewater testing can be an important tool to help us understand if poliovirus may be circulating in communities in certain circumstances,” said Romero, a Healio Pediatrics Peer Perspective Board Member. “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.”

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