CDC to test Philadelphia for polio with wastewater study

Philadelphia is among one the first U.S. cities to be tested in a new poliovirus study, according to an announcement by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As part of the study, wastewater samples will be collected by th the Philadelphia Department of Health and sent for analysis to the CDC's polio laboratory. 

Testing is expected to last at least four months, and will occur in counties with "potentially low polio vaccination coverage." Test sites may also have connections to at-risk communities linked to a single case of paralytic polio in New York.


If poliovirus is found in sewage or wastewater, officials say that indicates someone in the area is shedding the virus. However, those samples can't be used to identify who is infected, or how many people are affected.

"It would not be surprising if poliovirus is detected by testing wastewater because strains of poliovirus can be shed in people’s stool without symptoms, putting unvaccinated people at risk. However, not all potential detections will be cause for concern," the CDC says.

The Michigan Department of Health and Services will join Philadelphia health officials in this initial testing, with preliminary discussions for more testing underway in other states.

"Improving vaccination coverage, rapid reporting and national case surveillance are the keys to preventing additional cases of paralytic polio in the United States."