UK detects polio virus in London sewage samples

Published: Publication date – 12:45 pm, Thu – June 23, 22

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London: Health officials in the UK have found polio virus in sewer samples in London, 19 years after it was eliminated in 2003.

According to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), the polio virus in sewer samples collected at the London Beckton Sewage Treatment Works was likely imported into London by someone recently vaccinated abroad with a live form of the virus.

The virus has continued to evolve and is now classified as a ‘vaccine-derived’ poliovirus type 2 (VDPV2), which in rare cases can cause serious illness, such as paralysis, in people who have not been fully vaccinated.

However, the virus has only been found in sewer samples and no associated cases of paralysis have been reported in the country, the UKHSA said.

It added that further investigations are underway to determine whether there has been community transmission.

Still, officials said poliovirus from vaccines is rare and the risk to the public in general is extremely low.

“Vaccine-derived poliovirus has the potential to spread, especially in communities where vaccination rates are lower. In rare cases, it can cause paralysis in people who have not been fully vaccinated,” Vanessa Saliba, epidemiologist consultant at UKHSA, said in a statement.

She also urged people to be aware of polio vaccinations, especially parents of young children who may have missed a vaccination opportunity.

Furthermore, the agency said the detection of a VDPV2 suggests it is likely that there has been some spread between closely related individuals in north and east London and that they are now excreting the type 2 poliovirus strain in their feces.

A number of closely related viruses have also been found in sewer samples taken between February and May.

The UK was declared polio-free in 2003. The last case of wild polio contracted in the UK was confirmed in 1984.

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