Traces of highly contagious polio virus found in British wastewater

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The British government said the United Kingdom declared a rare “national incident” after traces of the highly contagious polio virus were found in London wastewater.

Britain, like many developed countries, has been largely polio-free since the 1980s due to a high rate of vaccination. So far, no cases have been reported.

However, the Health Security Agency and the medical regulator in a statement Wednesday that authorities found traces of the polio virus in wastewater samples collected from the London Beckton Sewage Treatment Works, as part of a “routine monitoring”. The sewage treatment plant covers nearly 4 million people in the north and east of the capital.

“Investigations are ongoing after several closely related viruses were found in sewage samples taken between February and May,” the statement said.

The statement said the discovery indicated that “there is likely to be some dissemination among closely related individuals in north and east London and that they are now shedding the type 2 poliovirus strain in their faeces”.

Vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2 — unlike a wild or naturally occurring strain — is a weakened form of the live virus used in oral polio vaccines. Many countries, including the United Kingdom and the United States, have step away from using the oral vaccine as it can spread to unvaccinated people. But it remains common in countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria.

British health authorities said that a vaccine-derived polio virus discovered in the UK “can in rare cases cause serious illness, such as paralysis, in people who have not been fully vaccinated”.

To date, poliovirus has only been detected in wastewater samples but investigations are underway to determine if any community transmission is occurring.

Like other countries, Britain is also grappling with the ongoing situation Corona Virus pandemic and monkeypox cases.

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The United Kingdom was declared polio-free by the World Health Organization in 2003, and the last case of wild or naturally occurring polio was in 1984, according to the government.

“The vaccine-derived polio virus is rare and the risks to the public are very low,” Vanessa Saliba, an epidemiologist at Britain’s Health Security Agency, said in a statement.

“We are urgently investigating to better understand the extent of transmission of this virus, and the NHS has been asked to quickly report any suspected cases,” she said, adding that “no cases have been reported or confirmed so far.”

Polio, or polio, is a disabling and fatal infectious disease that invades the nervous system and is spread primarily through fecal contamination.

There is no cure, but vaccinations since the 1960s, mostly in childhood, have been a game-changer that has allowed many countries to eradicate wild polio. UK maintains vaccination coverage over 95 percent, government He saidlargely through the routine childhood immunization programme.

The UK’s Health Security Agency says it typically detects between one and three “poliovirus isolates each year” in wastewater but they are usually one-time and unrelated to each other. In this case, the isolates identified between February and June 2022 are genetically related. This has led to the need to investigate the extent of transmission.”

The most likely scenario is that someone who was recently vaccinated entered the UK from a country where the oral polio vaccine was used. Authorities said the UK stopped such oral vaccines in 2004.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus tweeted: “Surveillance, vaccination and investment #EndPolio critical,” following the news of the UK announcement.

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The Global Polio Eradication Initiative, which is working to end all wild and vaccine-related cases of the virus, said that although it has been largely eradicated, the disease remains endemic in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“It is important that all countries, particularly those with significant travel and contact with polio-affected countries and regions, strengthen surveillance in order to quickly detect any import of a new virus and facilitate a rapid response,” the group said in a statement. a statement.

Meanwhile, health officials in London are urging parents to ensure young children are fully vaccinated to prevent an outbreak. The government said the National Health Service will begin reaching out to parents of children under the age of 5 in the capital who have not kept up with their vaccinations.