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HomeEconomyBritain on alert as polio virus in London sewage MPNRC
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Britain on alert as polio virus in London sewage MPNRC

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UK health authorities on Wednesday issued a nationwide appeal to parents to ensure their children’s vaccines are up to date after polio virus was detected in sewage samples in London. The UK Health Protection Agency (UKHSA) said investigations were underway after several closely related viruses were found in sewage samples taken between February and May. The virus continues to be developed and is now classified as vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2 (VDPV2), which on rare occasions can cause severe disease, such as paralysis, in people who are not fully vaccinated . The finding is a cause for concern as the last case of wild polio contracted in the UK was confirmed in 1984 and the UK was declared polio-free in 2003.

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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 polioviruses have 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 contact your GP, he said.

According to the UKHSA, the detection of VDPV2 suggests that there is likely to be some spread between closely related individuals in north and east London and that they are now harboring the type 2 poliovirus strain in their feces. The virus has only been detected in sewage samples and no related cases of paralysis have been reported, but investigations will aim to establish whether there is any community transmission. The UKHSA said that as part of routine surveillance, it is common to detect one to three vaccine-like polioviruses every year in UK sewage samples, but these have always been one-sided findings that have not been re-detected. These previous detections occurred when a person had been vaccinated with live oral polio vaccine (OPV) abroad or returned or traveled to the UK and left traces of vaccine-like poliovirus in their stool.

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Most Londoners are fully protected against polio and will not need to take any further action, but the NHS will begin reaching out to parents of children under five in London to invite them to take their polio Not up to date with vaccinations. Stay safe, said NHS chief nurse Jane Clegg in London. The UK is considered polio-free by the World Health Organisation, with a low risk for polio transmission because of the high level of vaccine coverage across the population. However, vaccine coverage for childhood vaccines has decreased nationally and particularly in parts of London over the years, so the UKHSA is urging people to check that they are up to date with their vaccines.

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Wastewater monitoring is being expanded to assess the extent of transmission and identify local areas for targeted action. The UKHSA said health professionals have been alerted to these findings so they can immediately investigate and report anyone with polio-like symptoms, such as paralysis. The primary polio vaccine course is given to children aged two, three and four months. Three doses are required to complete the primary course. In the UK it is given as part of a six-in-one vaccine.

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