Public health officials have declared a national incident after routine monitoring of wastewater in north and east London found evidence of community-acquired poliovirus transmission for the first time.
The UK Health Safety Agency (UKHSA) said waste from Beckton’s wastewater treatment plant in Newham tested positive for the vaccine-derived poliovirus in February and has since been detected. more positive samples.
No cases of related illness or paralysis have been reported, and the risk to the general public is considered low, but public health officials urged people to make sure they and their families are up to date. polio vaccines to reduce the risk of damage. .
“Vaccine-derived poliovirus has the potential to spread, especially in communities where vaccine uptake is lower,” said Dr. Vanessa Saliba, a consultant epidemiologist at the UKHSA. “It can rarely cause paralysis in people who are not fully vaccinated, so if you or your child are not up to date with your polio vaccines, it is important that you contact your GP for catch up or, if you’re not sure, check your red book. “
“The majority of the UK population will be protected from childhood vaccination, but in some communities with low vaccine coverage, people may remain at risk,” he added.
Tests in UK wastewater usually detect a handful of unrelated polioviruses each year. These come from people who have received the oral polio vaccine in another country and then travel to the UK. People who receive the oral vaccine can eliminate the weakened live virus used in the vaccine in their feces for several weeks.
London samples detected since February sounded the alarm because they were related to each other and contained mutations that suggested the virus was evolving as it spread from person to person.
The outbreak is thought to have been caused by a person returning to the UK after receiving the oral polio vaccine and spreading it locally. It is unclear how far the virus has spread, but it may be limited to a single home or extended family.
Poliovirus can be spread through poor hand hygiene and contaminated food and water, or less frequently through coughing and sneezing. A common route of transmission is that people get their hands contaminated after using the toilet and then transmit the virus by touching food consumed by others.
Although the UK as a whole has a good adoption of the polio vaccine, with 95% of five-year-olds getting the vaccine, coverage is lagging behind in London, with only 91.2% of vaccinated children in this age group. In response to the detection of the virus, the NHS will contact the parents of children who are not up to date with their polio vaccines.
Most people who become infected with polio have no symptoms, but some develop a flu-like illness up to three weeks later. Between one in 100 and one in 1,000 infections, the virus attacks the nerves in the spine and the base of the brain, which can lead to paralysis, more often in the legs. Rarely, the virus attacks the muscles used to breathe, which can be fatal.
The UK switched from the oral polio vaccine (OPV) to an inactivated polio vaccine (IPV), given by injection, in 2004. Vaccines are given in routine childhood NHS vaccines in the eight, 12 and 16 weeks as part of the 6- vaccine in 1. Reinforcements are offered at three and 14 years.
The UKHSA is now analyzing wastewater samples from local areas that are fed at the Beckton plant to reduce the site where the virus is spreading. If these tests indicate the center of the outbreak, public health teams may offer polio vaccination to people at risk.
Professor Nicholas Grassly, head of the vaccine epidemiology research group at Imperial College London, said: the import of the virus during routine wastewater testing.
“In this case, there is concern that the virus may be circulating locally in London and may spread more widely. Fortunately, so far no one has developed symptoms of the disease, which affects only about 1 in 200 of those infected, but it is “It is important that children keep up to date with their polio vaccines. Until polio is eradicated worldwide, we will continue to address this threat of infectious disease.”