Australian health authorities have taken new measures to stay on alert surrounding polio, with a string of new cases detected overseas
Sewage has been tested for the virus at sites across the country, with NSW the latest to undertake the precautionary measure.
It comes after polio cases were detected in London and New York last month.
The British capital’s most recent previous infection was in the 1980s, while New York hadn’t had a reported polio infection in nine years.
Poliovirus discovered in the city’s wastewater testing prompted New York’s governor to declare a state of emergency.
NSW Health has now followed a similar strategy and began testing wastewater for the virus last week.
“NSW Health convened an expert panel last week, that included experts from Victoria, to consider the value and parameters of wastewater surveillance to help detect other infectious diseases, including polio,” a statement read.
“While there is currently no indication of polio infection in NSW, as a precaution, NSW Health is developing a wastewater surveillance for poliovirus, building on the success of the SARS CoV-2 wastewater surveillance program.
“NSW Health is working with Sydney Water to finalise the methods and implement surveillance as soon as possible.”
Australia has been officially polio-free since 2000 and the last case of locally acquired polio was in 1972.
The country has earlier had polio epidemics in the 1930s and 1950s which led to more than 1000 deaths and lifelong side effects for countless others.
Fewer than one per cent of infections result in paralysis.
Almost 95 per cent of Australians have been vaccinated against polio by the age of five as part of the routine childhood vaccination program.