Alert issued in UK after polio virus was found in sewerage system

People are being urged to make sure their polio vaccines are up to date after the virus was detected in UK sewage samples. Polio, which was officially abolished in the UK in 2003, can cause paralysis in rare cases and can be life-threatening.

The UK Heath Security Agency (UKHSA), working with the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), has found polio in sewage samples collected from the London Becton Sewage Treatment Works, which has killed nearly four million people in north and east London. serves.

While it is common for the virus to be picked up as isolated cases and not re-detected, experts have raised the alarm after several genetically linked viruses were found in samples between February and May. Previously, the virus was picked up when a person vaccinated overseas with live oral polio vaccine (OPV) or traveled to the UK and shed parts of the vaccine-like poliovirus in their stool.

However, in recent samples the virus has evolved in England and is now classified as ‘vaccine-derived’ poliovirus type 2 (VDPV2). VDPV is a strain of weakened polio virus, initially included in the oral polio vaccine, that has changed over time and behaves like a “wild” or naturally occurring virus.

This means that it can spread more easily to people who have not been vaccinated and who come into contact with an infected person’s feces or coughs and sneezes. The UKHSA is working on the theory that a person vaccinated abroad with the polio vaccine – possibly in Afghanistan, Pakistan or Nigeria – entered the UK in early 2022 and was shedding the virus.

That person has now passed it to other, closely related individuals in north-east London, who in turn are shedding the virus in their feces. Experts are looking into the possibility that just one family or extended family may be affected, although it is not clear how many people need to be infected to detect polio in sewage samples.

The UKHSA stressed that the virus has only been detected in sewage samples and that no cases of paralysis have been reported. It is now investigating the extent of community transmission and has set up a “national event” to investigate cases elsewhere as a precaution.

The polio vaccine is given on the NHS when a child is eight, 12 and 16 weeks old as part of the 6-in-1 vaccine. It is given as part of a 4-in-1 (DTaP/IPV) preschool booster at three years and four months old, and as part of a 3-in-1 (Td/IPV) teen booster at 14 Is. All of these vaccines should be given to a person fully vaccinated, although children who have had two or three doses will have adequate protection.

The latest figures show that by the age of two in the UK, around 95% of children had the correct number of doses. However, this has dropped to just under 90% in London. When it comes to pre-school boosters, only 71 per cent of children in London have had the disease by the age of five.

Dr Vanessa Saliba, Consultant Epidemiologist at UKHSA, said: “Vaccine-derived poliovirus is rare and the risk to the public as a whole is extremely low. Vaccine-derived poliovirus has the potential to spread, especially in communities where vaccine intake is low. On rare occasions it can cause paralysis in people who have not been fully vaccinated, so if you or your child is not up to date with your polio vaccination, it is important that you see your GP Contact or if unsure, check your Lal Kitab.

“The majority of the UK population will be protected by childhood vaccination, but in some communities with low vaccine coverage, individuals may remain at risk. We are conducting urgent investigations to better understand the extent of this transmission and the UKHSA to the NHS It has been asked to expeditiously report any suspected case, though no case has been reported or confirmed so far.

Most people who get polio do not have symptoms, but some have mild, flu-like problems such as high temperature, extreme tiredness, headache, vomiting, stiff neck and muscle aches. In one in 100 to 1,000 infections, the poliovirus attacks the nerves of the spinal cord and the base of the brain.

It can cause paralysis, usually in the legs, that develops over hours or days. If the breathing muscles are affected, polio can be fatal. Physicians have now been alerted by the UKHSA to watch for the symptoms of polio paralysis.

If people experience a rapid onset of weakness in a limb that will be floppy, or have difficulty breathing, immediate medical attention should be sought. The last case of natural polio infection in the UK was received in 1984. The UK stopped using live oral polio vaccine (OPV) in 2004 and switched to inactivated polio vaccine (IPV).

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