Remnants of poliovirus were discovered in sewage samples in Tiberias, adding to the growing list of hot spots in the country, Israel’s Ministry of Health said in a statement.

A 4-year-old girl from Jerusalem tested positive for the virus earlier this month, marking the country’s first case in more than 30 years. Since then, another child has tested positive and five others, suspected of carrying the virus, are being tested.

In all of the above cases, the children were not vaccinated against polio.

Last week, the Health Ministry said it thought it had found early traces polio in two other cities—Beit Shemesh and Modi’in Ilit—via its sewage-surveillance program, but on Sunday, it said that those samples turned out to be negative.

“We are not talking about rampant polio,” head of public health services Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis stressed in a briefing shortly after the discovery of the first case of the virus. “This is polio from the weakened live vaccine that changed over time.”

Nevertheless, the Health Ministry has been conducting a mass vaccination drive in Jerusalem. In the last two weeks, 12,412 children have been vaccinated as part of that drive, including 560 on Sunday alone, and the ministry is calling on all parents to make sure that their children are vaccinated according to the routine vaccination schedule.

“The poliovirus vaccine is the most effective and safest way to prevent infection with the virus and to protect against the disease,” the ministry said.

The discovery of polio in Israel comes at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic seems to be making a comeback in Israel, too. The reproduction rate, or “R,” surpassed 1 over the weekend, for the first time since January.

There were more than 10,000 new COVID-19 cases discovered between midnight and 10 p.m. on Sunday, the Health Ministry said. Of the nearly 37,000 people tested, 21% had a positive result.


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