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Polio: Need to worry about the virus found in London’s sewers?

Micrograph of poliovirus

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Poliovirus has been detected in many of London’s sewage samples. Encourage the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) Anyone who does not have the latest polio vaccine information can be immunized.

Sample detected in Beckton sewage treatment facility From February to May, so far it has been limited to wastewater and no human cases have been reported.

Nonetheless, some local infections are expected to occur, and the virus can spread, especially among unvaccinated people, and cause serious illness.

What is polio? How does it spread?

Polio is a viral disease that primarily affects children Under 5 years old.. It is usually spread by people who do not wash their hands properly after using the toilet and contaminate the food and drinks consumed by others. In rare cases, it may spread due to coughing or sneezing.

What are the symptoms?

Most people infected with polio have no symptoms, but some do. Flu-like symptoms High temperature or vomiting within a few weeks after infection.

In 1 in 100 to 1 in 1000, the virus can attack the spinal nerves and cause paralysis.Polio Deadly If it affects the nerves that control our respiratory muscles.

When was the last polio outbreak in the UK?

Since then, no cases of polio have been reported in the United Kingdom. 1984.. The World Health Organization then declared the eradication of polio in the United Kingdom in 2003.

Is it unusual to detect polio in wastewater?

In the UK, sewage samples are regularly tested for other pathogens such as poliovirus, norovirus and norovirus. Hepatitis A and E..

One to three “vaccine-like” polioviruses are detected each year. These were previously one-off findings that occurred after vaccination with live oral polio and shedding the virus in the faeces. These oral vaccines are not given in the UK.

Beckton’s sample identifies several closely related polioviruses.

According to UKHSA, “there is some spread among closely related individuals in northern and eastern London, and they may now be excreting type 2 poliovirus strains from their faeces.”

This strain can cause infections in people who have been injected with polio vaccine, but it is probably not a serious illness. Used in the United Kingdom, it contains a “killed” version of the virus.

How can people get rid of poliovirus in their faeces?

In the UK, live oral polio vaccines have not been used since then. 2004However, it is given in parts of the world that are actively fighting infections, such as Afghanistan and Pakistan. Unlike vaccines given by injection, oral vaccines are relatively cheap and easy to administer.

Major Disadvantage A characteristic of oral vaccines is that they can lead to vaccine-derived poliovirus in immunocompromised populations. This vaccine works by administering an attenuated version of live poliovirus. It causes infection, but has been modified to not cause serious illness, except in rare cases. The virus can then replicate in the intestine and be excreted through the faeces.

For Beckton’s sewage samples, the strain found may have been introduced by someone who recently traveled to the United Kingdom after vaccination with a live oral vaccine.

How is this different from the previous sewer detection of polio?

Previous detections of poliovirus in sewage samples occurred independently as separate cases.

In the Beckton sample, the virus was identified over a period of 4 months. They are also closely related to each other and contain mutations that suggest they are evolving.

According to David Salisbury, the World Health Organization’s Global Committee for Polio Eradication, these mutations “mean that they are circulating among individuals, including those who have been vaccinated with inactivated polio vaccine.”

This cycle may have occurred in the country where the person was vaccinated with a live oral vaccine, or perhaps in the United Kingdom, but it does not cause any symptoms.

No human cases have been reported so far in the UK, Kathleen O’Reilly The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine expects some community outbreaks to occur undetected.

“In the sewage sample, genetic analysis shows multiple transmission routes, which suggests that some people are spreading it among themselves,” she says. “People who have never been vaccinated have an infection and are much more likely to get rid of it for a long time.”

Are only unvaccinated people at risk?

According to UKHSA, the risk of serious polio-induced illness is low in the United Kingdom. “Most of the UK’s population is protected from vaccination during childhood, but in some communities with low vaccination rates, individuals can remain at risk.” Vanessa Sulliva Said in a statement at UKHSA.

In the UK, injected vaccines are given to babies 3 times before turning 1 year old.. Then, before the age of 15, two more booster jabs will be given.

is more than 92 percent The UK population has been vaccinated at least three times, but in London its intake is as low as about 86%.

“In populations with low vaccine intake, live polio vaccines can spread from person to person,” he said. Paul hunter In a statement to the Science Media Center at the University of East Anglia, UK.

Overall, how much do we need to worry about?

“There have been no cases of paralysis so far,” said Hunter. “Therefore, there is unlikely an imminent risk to public health at this time, but if such an infection continues, there is a risk that the virus will eventually evolve into a paralyzing virus.

“If that happens, this can pose a serious risk to unvaccinated people. Infection events from such vaccines are well-explained and ultimately harmful. It disappears without any problems, but it depends on whether the vaccination rate is improving. “

Jonathan ball The University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom states that the threat of disease in the country is “low” due to the relatively widespread use of injectable vaccines. From infection. “

“But in the end, because of the high levels of vaccination here, the virus should go away,” he told the Science Media Center.

The NHS will contact parents of children under the age of 5 in London who do not have the latest polio vaccine information and encourage them to be immunized.

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Polio: Need to worry about the virus found in London’s sewers?

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