Traces of the polio virus have been detected in the sewage systems of a number of locations in the south, including Kiryat Gat and Ashdod. This follows the discovery last week of the polio virus in the Be’er Sheva sewage system.
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The Health Ministry believes that all of the traces of the polio virus originate in the Bedouin town of Rahat, after the virus was found in the sewers there at the end of March.
The ministry has not received any reports of individuals contracting polio as a result, but is continuing to pursue its polio vaccination campaign among children and adults in the Negev town of Rahat in an effort to head off an outbreak.
The presence of the polio virus in Rahat’s sewage system is evidence that one or more residents of the town have been excreting the virus at its infectious stage.
Polio has been virtually eradicated in most developed countries through vaccinations.
The disease, which can cause permanent paralysis, is still prevalent in some third world countries. Booster shots are available for those who have been vaccinated but are at risk of exposure.
As part of a national program, babies are vaccinated against the disease at two, four and six months of age, at one year, and then again at school in Grades 2 and 8.
The type of polio virus found in Rahat is similar to the polio discovered last year in Egypt and it was apparently brought to Rahat by someone who had been infected with the disease in Egypt.
Ministry: No change in policy
Health clinics in the south are being urged to make sure babies are properly vaccinated.
“Hygiene rules should be scrupulously observed, particularly washing one’s hands after using the bathroom, before having contact with food and after changing babies’ diapers to avoid contracting the virus,” the Health Ministry said.
“There is no [polio] contamination of the water system and no need to boil water in those communities in which polio has been detected in the sewage, and there is no change in policy regarding the communities in the vicinity of Rahat.”
This year’s outbreak is not the first evidence of the persistence of polio in Israel. Traces of the virus were found in the Tel Aviv area’s sewage system most recently in 2005, and led to a program to ensure that children were getting vaccinated.