The NHS is encouraging parents of children aged under five in London who are not up to date with their Polio vaccinations to book an appointment with their GPs. This comes after the recent discovery of poliovirus in sewage samples from the London Beckton Sewage Treatment Works.
The last case of wild polio contracted in the UK was confirmed in 1984 and the UK was declared polio-free since 2003. However, investigations are underway after several closely-related viruses were found in sewage samples taken between February and May. The virus has continued to evolve and is now classified as a ‘vaccine-derived’ poliovirus type 2 (VDPV2), which on rare occasions can cause serious illness, such as paralysis, in people who are not fully vaccinated.
The detection of a VDPV2 suggests it is likely there has been some spread between closely-linked individuals in North and East London and that they are now shedding the type 2 poliovirus strain in their faeces. The virus has only been detected in sewage samples and no associated cases of paralysis have been reported – but investigations will aim to establish if any community transmission is occurring.
Vaccine-derived poliovirus is rare and the risk to the public overall is extremely low, but precautions must be taken as Dr Vanessa Saliba, Consultant Epidemiologist at UK Heath Security Agency (UKHSA) explains: “Vaccine-derived poliovirus has the potential to spread, particularly in communities where vaccine uptake is lower. On rare occasions it can cause paralysis in people who are not fully vaccinated so if you or your child are not up to date with your polio vaccinations it’s important you contact your GP to catch up or if you are unsure, check your Red Book.
“Most of the UK population will be protected from vaccination in childhood, but in some communities with low vaccine coverage, individuals may remain at risk.
Jane Clegg, Chief nurse for the NHS in London added: “The majority of Londoners are fully protected against polio and won’t need to take any further action, but the NHS will begin reaching out to parents of children aged under five in London who are not up to date with their polio vaccinations to invite them to get protected.
“Meanwhile, parents can contact their GP surgery to book a vaccination, should they or their child not be fully up to date.”