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  10 Aug 2022, 19:09

London children to be offered polio booster as samples found

LONDON, Aug 10, 2022 (BSS/AFP) - Around one million children in London will 
be offered a polio booster vaccine after the virus was detected in sewage 
samples across the capital, health officials said Wednesday.

"Following the discovery of type 2 vaccine-derived poliovirus in sewage in 
north and east London," a targetted booster does would be offered to children 
between one and nine, said a health ministry statement.

There have been no confirmed cases of the disease, but it has been found at 
an increasing number of sewage plants across the capital. It was first 
detected at an east London treatment works earlier this year.

The detected levels suggest "that there is some level of virus transmission 
in these boroughs which may extend to the adjacent areas", said the 
statement.
The last case of polio in the UK, which can cause paralysis, was in 1984.

The wild version of the virus now exists only in Afghanistan and Pakistan, 
but a type of vaccine that contains small amounts of weakened but live polio 
still causes occasional outbreaks elsewhere.

Oral polio vaccine (OPV) replicates in the gut and can be passed to others 
through faecal-contaminated water. So, although it will not hurt the 
vaccinated child, it could infect their neighbours in places where hygiene 
and immunisation levels are low.

While weaker than wild poliovirus, this variant can cause serious illness and 
paralysis in people not vaccinated against the disease.

The discovery in the London sewage samples suggests "there may be localised 
spread of poliovirus," said polio eradication expert Kathlene O'Reilly.

That would most likely be among individuals who are not up to date with their 
polio immunisations, she added.

Polio immunisation coverage in London stands at nearly 87 percent, according 
to the WHO, lower than the rest of the country.

"For the majority of the population, who are fully vaccinated, the risk is 
low," said Vanessa Saliba, consultant epidemiologist at the UK Health 
Security Agency. 

"But we know the areas in London where the poliovirus is being transmitted 
have some of the lowest vaccination rates. 

"This is why the virus is spreading in these communities and puts those 
residents not fully vaccinated at greater risk," she added.

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