Chicago Health Officials Are Monitoring Spread of Polio as New York Declares Emergency

New York declared a state of emergency earlier this week to address alarmingly low polio vaccination rates. Here's what Chicago health experts are looking into

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Public health officials in Chicago are monitoring the spread of polio after New York declared a state of emergency over an outbreak of the virus that has been largely under control for decades due to widespread vaccination.

New York declared the state of emergency on Friday to boost vaccination efforts after the virus was detected in wastewater in four counties in the New York area, as well as New York City itself.

According to New York health officials, several area counties have polio vaccination rates below 65 percent, with a statewide rate just below 80 percent.

Wastewater surveillance began in New York after an unvaccinated man contracted the virus in July and later suffered from paralysis. Prior to the man's infection, it was the nation's first case of polio in almost 10 years.

Local officials stress that the risk to Chicago remains low thanks to an overall vaccination rate above 95 percent. Polio immunizations are grouped with other childhood vaccinations and are required to enroll in public school.

While some New Yorkers are currently being recommended to receive a single lifetime booster shot of the polio vaccine, there is currently no need to seek out a polio vaccine in Chicago if you received all of your childhood vaccinations.

"There's no recommendation at this point to get a booster or vaccine for polio if you have had all of your regular childhood vaccines," said Dr. Isaac Shinai, a medical director at the Chicago Department of Public Health who oversees COVID-19 laboratory surveillance and testing.

Shinai said the city will also utilize wastewater surveillance in monitoring polio, which emerged as a helpful tool in several cities worldwide in the effort to monitor the progression of local COVID-19 transmission.

With the recent emergency declaration in New York and local health experts officially monitoring the virus, here's everything you need to know about finding out your polio vaccine status in Illinois:

Is The Polio Vaccine Required?

According to research from NBC Newsmost Americans were vaccinated against the virus in early childhood. Kindergarten vaccination rates for polio have hovered around 95% since at least the 2011-12 school year.

That's because polio vaccines are required for children entering kindergarten in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, though states allow medical exemptions and, in some cases, religious or philosophical exemptions as well.

But there's no federal database of vaccination records. So if you’re unsure whether you were fully vaccinated against polio, how you retrieve your records depends on where you got your immunizations.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests asking parents or caregivers, doctors or public health clinics you visited as a child, or previous employers that required immunizations. Schools may also keep records for a couple of years after students graduate.

You can also request records from the health department of the state where you were vaccinated, but the systems for storing and enabling access to that information vary.

While many states allow you to request records through online forms or mobile apps, or to immediately search for records through online portals, Illinois is not one of them. Though residents in Illinois can request their vaccination records, it can take up to a month to process.

How to Request Your Polio Vaccination Record if You Live in Illinois records if you live in Illinois

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health residents must complete an Immunization Records Request, and then submit it using an online form.

"Please allow 3-4 weeks for processing," the IDPH form says.

For more information about Illinois Comprehensive Automated Immunization Registry Exchange, visit the IDPH website.

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