Polio Virus Found in Samples – National Incident

vaccination injectionHealth authorities have declared a national incident and informed the World Health Organization (WHO) after poliovirus was detected in sewage samples in London.

Parents are being advised to check that their children are fully vaccinated against polio, a dangerous disease which was thought to be eliminated in the UK by 2003.

The virus is sometimes picked up as isolated cases which then disappear again, generally due to a person who has travelled to the UK after being vaccinated overseas with the live oral polio vaccine (OPV) .

However, this case is different. The warning was raised after a cluster of several genetically-linked viruses were found repeatedly in samples between February and May. This suggests there has been some spread between closely-linked individuals in London.

It is considered that the virus has evolved in England and is now classified as a ‘vaccine-derived’ poliovirus type 2 (VDPV2). VDPV is a strain of the weakened poliovirus included within the oral polio vaccine which has developed and now behaves more like the naturally-occurring virus. This means that there is a risk of it spreading within the UK population, where unvaccinated people come into contact with those who are infected.

Polio vaccination

While the risk is currently thought to be low, it is nonetheless very important to check that vaccinations are up to date. The polio vaccine is normally given to babies and children in 5 stages:

  1. 8 weeks old
  2. 12 weeks old
  3. 16 weeks old
  4. Age 3 years and 4 months as part of the pre-school booster 4-in-1 (DTaP/IPV)
  5. Age 14 as part of the teenage booster 3-in-1 (Td/IPV)

While it’s generally considered that the majority of the population is protected from vaccination in childhood, the figures are by no means 100%. Figures show that

  • 86% of children have had the correct number of doses by the age of 2 in London, which is less than the UK average of 95%.
  • 71% of children in London have had the pre-school booster by the age of 5

Good hygiene is also important. Polio is spread primarily through contact, where a person has not washed their hands thoroughly after going to the toilet. It can also be spread through coughs and sneezes.

Polio symptoms

Most people won’t experience any significant symptoms and may just fight the virus without even realising they had it.

A small number will have flu-like symptoms for up to three weeks, including high temperature, fatigue, headaches, muscle aches, stiff neck, nausea/vomiting .

In a very small number of cases, thought to be between one in 100 and one in 1,000, the polio virus attacks the nerves in the spine and base of the brain. This can cause paralysis, usually in the legs. If the breathing muscles are affected, it can be life-threatening.

Dr Vanessa Saliba, consultant epidemiologist at the UKHSA, said:

“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 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.”

Immunisation Services at The Smart Clinics, London

Members are invited to contact The Smart Clinics as early as possible to check their vaccination status and arrange appointments if required. We offer an extensive range of vaccination and immunisation services including all the childhood vaccines as well as travel vaccination for those who require it.

Non-members are also welcome to access our services on an ad hoc basis.

The Smart Clinics

Private Family Healthcare London

The Smart Clinics is a private healthcare company established in 2013, offering a membership-based alternative to NHS care for individuals and families. Vital health services include private GPs, travel clinic, sexual health, skin treatments, psychology, physiotherapy and much more. There are also a range of children’s services available, including immunisation and health visitors. The Smart Clinics brings together a host of medical professionals offering patients high quality health services in a choice of accessible London clinic locations.

For more information contact us on info@thesmartclinics.co.uk or call  020 7052 0070.

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