Polio may be spreading in Britain for first time in 40 YEARS: Strain of paralysis-causing virus mutated from vaccine is ‘likely’ being transmitted in London as health chiefs declare ‘national incident’
- Officials have found traces of a vaccine-derived poliovirus in sewage samples in North and East London
- Thought that someone vaccinated with live vaccine shed part of virus and spread it to unvaccinated people
- Parents are being urged to ensure their children’s vaccinations are up to date, particularly after the pandemic
- Officials said risk to public ‘extremely low’ with one in 100 chance of paralysis and high vaccine uptake
- Can I take the polio vaccine if I missed out as a child? What are the virus’ symptoms? How many people are infected in the UK? Read our in-depth Q&A here
Polio may be spreading in the UK for the first time in nearly 40 years, health chiefs warned today as they declared a ‘national incident’.
Officials have found traces of a vaccine-derived version of the virus in sewage samples in parts of London and say it is ‘likely’ transmitting within the community.
Parents are being urged to ensure their children are up to date with their polio vaccinations, particularly after the pandemic when school immunization schemes were disrupted.
Polio spreads through coughs and sneezes or contact with objects contaminated with faeces, causing permanent paralysis in around one in 100 cases. Children are at a higher risk.
The virus was detected several times between February and May and has continued to mutate, according to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).
It is thought someone vaccinated with the live polio vaccine – which uses a weakened version of the virus – abroad travelled to the UK and shed part of the pathogen in their stool.
But health officials insist the risk to the public overall is ‘extremely low’, with urgent investigations now underway to find anyone who has been infected.
The last time someone caught polio within the UK was in 1984 but there have been dozens of imported cases since then. Britain was declared polio-free in 2003.
It comes as London battles an outbreak of monkeypox, another rare viral disease that was until recently confined to parts of western and central Africa.
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