UKHSA detects polio virus in London sewer, reports national incident

UK health authorities have said they are “urgently” investigating a rare discovery of polio virus in sewer samples in London.

Image Alliance | Getty Images

UK health authorities have said they are urgently investigating a rare discovery of the polio virus in sewage samples in London, potentially threatening Britain’s polio-free status for the first time in nearly two decades.

A number of waste samples from the Beckton sewage treatment plant in Newham, east London, tested positive for the vaccine-derived polio virus between February and May. The UK Health Security Agency said on Wednesday.

The virus has since continued to evolve and is now classified as a “vaccine-derived” poliovirus type 2, the UKHSA said, adding that it is trying to determine if there is community transmission.

The agency has announced a national incident and informed the World Health Organization of the situation.

“We are investigating urgently to better understand the extent of this transmission and the NHS has been asked to promptly report all suspected cases to the UKHSA, although no cases have been reported or confirmed to date,” Dr. Vanessa Saliba, consultant epidemiologist at UKHSA, said Wednesday.

Polio is a rare virus that can occasionally cause serious illness, such as paralysis, in people who have not been fully vaccinated. The disease was previously common in the UK in the 1950s, but the country was declared polio-free in 2003.

The UKHSA said the risk to the general public is extremely low but urged parents to ensure their children are fully vaccinated against the disease. It is common in the UK for children to receive an inactivated polio vaccine as part of their routine vaccination program† with three shots given before age one and another shot given at ages three and 14.

“Most of the UK population will be protected from childhood vaccination, but in some communities with low vaccination coverage, individuals may continue to be at risk,” Saliba said.

Each year, it is common for one to three “vaccine-like” polioviruses to be detected in the UK’s sewerage system.

Such detections have always been one-off findings and have previously occurred when a person vaccinated abroad with the live oral polio vaccine returned or traveled to the UK and briefly “shed” spores of the vaccine-like polio virus in their feces.

However, this is the first time that a cluster of genetically linked samples has been repeatedly identified over several months.

Vaccination status

Scientists say this suggests that there may have been a community dispersion between closely related individuals in north and east London.

So far, the virus has only been found in sewer samples and no associated cases of paralysis have been reported, according to the UKHSA.

While vaccination against polio is common in the UK, immunization rates vary from country to country, with lower uptake communities at greater risk.

Vaccination coverage, especially for childhood vaccines, has declined nationwide and especially in parts of London in recent years.

The UK’s National Health Service said parents should check with their doctor’s doctor’s office to make sure their child’s vaccines are up to date.

“The majority of Londoners are fully protected against polio and will not need to take any further action, but the NHS will contact parents of children under 5 in London who are unaware of their polio vaccinations to invite them . to be protected,” said Jane Clegg, the NHS’s chief nurse in London.

“Meanwhile, parents can also check their child’s vaccination status in their Red Book and people should contact their GP practice to book a vaccination should they or their child not be fully up to date,” she added. .

In 2004, Britain switched from using an oral polio vaccine to an inactivated polio vaccine, which is given by injection and prevents infection.

In general, those who become infected with polio show no symptoms, although some can develop a flu-like illness for up to three weeks later. In rarer cases, the virus can attack nerves in the spine and base of the brain, potentially leading to paralysis. Sometimes it can attack the muscles used for breathing, which can be fatal.

Medical professionals said early detection of the virus would be important to control its spread and prevent more serious cases.

“In populations with low vaccine uptake, it is possible that live polio vaccine can spread from one person to another. If this persists, this vaccine-derived virus can mutate over time (one or two years) to fully recover. become virulent and can begin to cause paralysis in people who have not been vaccinated,” said Paul Hunter, a professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.