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Poliovirus has been found in London’s sewage, health officials say.
The UK Health Protection Agency (UKHSA), working with the Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), said it had detected poliovirus in sewage samples from north and east London that were collected by London’s Beckton wastewater treatment plants. .
It says that between one and three “vaccine-like” polioviruses are detected in UK wastewater samples each year, but these have always been “one-off finds”.
Previous detections have occurred when a person vaccinated abroad with live oral polio vaccine (OPV) returned or traveled to the UK and briefly shed traces of the virus. vaccine-like polioviruses in their feces.
The investigation continues after several related viruses were found in sewage samples taken from February to May.
The agency said the virus is now classified as vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2 (VDPV2), which can – rarely – cause more serious illness in people who have not been fully vaccinated.
“The detection of VDPV2 suggests that there probably was some spread between closely related individuals in North and East London and that they are now isolating a strain of poliovirus type 2 in the faeces. The virus has only been detected in sewage samples and no associated cases of paralysis have been reported, but studies will be directed to establish if any transmission is occurring in the community,” the statement said.
The agency urged the public to make sure polio vaccines are up to date.
The last case of wild polio in the UK was confirmed in 1984, and the country was declared polio free in 2003.
In a statement, UKHSA consultant epidemiologist Dr Vanessa Saliba said the National Health Service (NHS) had not reported or confirmed any suspected cases so far.
“Most Londoners are fully protected against polio and will not need to take any further action, but the NHS will begin contacting parents of children under 5 in London who have not yet been vaccinated against polio to invite them to receive protection.” Jane Clegg, chief nurse for the NHS in London, said.
Childhood vaccine coverage has declined nationally.