All children aged one to nine in London will be offered a dose of the polio vaccine after more of the virus was found in the city’s sewers.
Vaccine-derived poliovirus has been detected in sewage from Barnet, Brent, Camden, Enfield, Hackney, Haringey, Islington and Waltham Forest.
The virus has also been found in lower concentrations in areas adjacent to the Beckton catchment to the south (immediately below the Thames) and to the east of Beckton.
However, it is unclear whether the virus has become established in these areas or whether the detections are due to people from the affected area visiting these neighboring areas.
There have been no confirmed cases of polio, and the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI) has said the risk to the public is low.
The NHS will contact parents when it is their child’s turn to come for a booster or booster dose of polio. It will start in areas where the virus has been detected and where vaccination rates are low, followed by a rapid rollout to the rest of London’s boroughs.
Vaccination uptake in London is already lower than in the rest of the country: 90% have the correct number of vaccines, compared to 95% nationally.
Virus found during routine wastewater inspection
UK Health Safety Agency declared a national incident in June after there were traces of the virus found during routine surveillance at the Beckton Wastewater Treatment Works.
It is normal for between one and three ‘vaccine-like’ polioviruses to be detected in UK sewage samples each year, but these have always been one-off finds.
The recent discovery, however, has seen the virus detected in a series of wastewater monitors.
Only some of the samples had enough mutations to be classified as vaccine-derived poliovirus (VDPV2). However, VDPV2 is of greater concern because it behaves more like natural “wild” polio and can, on rare occasions, cause cases of paralysis in unvaccinated individuals.
UKHSA consultant epidemiologist Dr Vanessa Saliba said: “Polio is a serious infection that can cause paralysis, but nationally the overall risk is considered low because most people are protected by vaccination.
“The last case of polio in the UK was in 1984, but decades ago before the polio vaccination program was introduced around 8,000 people would be paralyzed each year.
“It is vital that parents make sure their children are fully vaccinated for their age. Following JCVI advice, all children aged one to nine in London should receive a dose of polio vaccine now , either as an extra booster dose or simply to catch up with your routine vaccinations. It will ensure a high level of protection against paralysis. This can also help stop the spread of the virus.”
Health Secretary Steve Barclay said on Twitter: “While no one has been diagnosed with polio in the UK and the risk remains low, I accept the JCVI’s advice to offer a booster to children aged 1 9 years in London. Areas where it is located. detected will be the first.”
What is polio and how is it spread?
Polio is a contagious virus that can be spread through coughing and sneezing, but also through food, water or objects that have been in contact with the feces of someone infected with it.
It has flu-like symptoms, including: high temperature, extreme tiredness, headaches, vomiting, neck stiffness and muscle pain. These usually last ten days, but can lead to more severe symptoms and can be life-threatening.
It mainly affects children under the age of five, although it can also affect unvaccinated adults.
The virus has been eradicated in most parts of the world due to a successful global vaccination program, but is still found in Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan.
The vaccines are given to children at eight, 12 and 16 weeks with booster doses at three years, four months and again at 14 years. The new vaccine is added to the childhood immunization program.
All five vaccines must be fully protected against the virus.
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