A polio alert has been issued in London following the discovery of several cases of the polio virus – the virus that causes the disease.
This is the first time in almost 40 years that a virus has been detected in the UK.
No polio cases have been reported, but health officials have begun searching for infected people and are targeting six unidentified boroughs in north and east London.
The UK Health Security Agency said a “national incident” level investigation was under way after the virus was discovered following routine testing of waste from Bacton sewage works.
A small number of people in north or east London – possibly from an extended family or acquaintances – are thought to be infected.
Parents are urged to ensure that their children are vaccinated against polio. It is given to children as part of multiple vaccine injections in three doses, followed by boosters as part of the NHS routine routine immunization program for young children and adolescents.
Vaccine use in London is lower than the national average, 89% by the age of two. The target is 95%.
Unvaccinated children and adolescents are most at risk from the current virus.
A senior health source said: “This is a concern but the current risk is very low.”
The “wild type” of polio can cause paralysis of organs or respiratory systems, although it is rare – in only 1% of cases. The majority of people recover.
The current virus is a “vaccine-derived” polio virus, meaning it is derived from an oral polio vaccine given abroad but not in the UK. It is considered less dangerous than wild viruses.
The UK polio vaccine was converted from injectable vaccine to oral vaccine in 2004.
The virus is thought to have been imported into the UK by a man who received an oral vaccine abroad. The virus is excreted in the feces and can spread to others through close contact.
UKHSA sources suggested that the man was most likely to have come from Afghanistan, Pakistan or Nigeria as three countries use the oral vaccine that has been found.
The UK polio virus has nothing to do with the virus spreading in Ukraine.
The virus was first detected in February, then in April, and most recently in a routine 15-day test. This has changed since then and the cases have been found to be “genetically linked”.
The catchment area of Becton Sewerage Works covers approximately four million Londoners. Experts say they cannot be sure how far the virus has spread, but hopefully only a small number will be infected.
Dr Vanessa Saliba, Consultant Epidemiologist UKHSA, said: “The vaccine-derived polio virus has the potential to spread, especially in communities where vaccine use is low.
“Rarely it can cause paralysis in people who have not been fully vaccinated, so if you or your child are not up to date on your polio vaccine, it is important that you Contact your GP – or check your red book if you’re not sure. [vaccination diary].
“Most of the UK population will be vaccinated against childhood vaccines, but with low vaccine coverage in some communities, people may be at risk.
“We are urgently investigating to better understand the extent of this transmission and the NHS has been asked to report any suspicious cases to the UKHSA immediately, although no case has been reported or confirmed yet. Is.”
It is not uncommon for polio virus samples to be detected at any time through a 15-day sewerage test, but it is extremely unusual to attach cases.
The last case of wild polio in the UK was confirmed in 1984 and the UK was declared polio-free in 2003.
However, if left unchecked in the coming months, the current transmission could jeopardize Britain’s polio-free status.
Families whose children have not been vaccinated will be contacted by the NHS and asked to receive a job.
Jane Clegg, chief nurse for the NHS in London, said: “The majority of Londoners are completely immune to polio and do not need further action, but the NHS is beginning to reach parents of children under five in London. Who are not up to date on their polio vaccine so they can be invited for protection.
Vaccine viruses can be spread in less vaccinated communities through poor hand hygiene – such as not washing hands after using the toilet – and water and food contamination. They can also be spread by coughing and sneezing – less often.