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National incident declared over polio virus findings in London sewage

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Public health officials have declared a national incident after routine surveillance of wastewater in north and east London found evidence of community transmission of poliovirus for the first time.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said waste from the Beckton sewage treatment works in Newham tested positive for vaccine-derived poliovirus in February and that further positive samples had been detected since.

No cases of the disease or related paralysis have been reported, and the risk to the general public is considered low, but public health officials urged people to make sure that they and their families were up to date with polio vaccinations to reduce the risk of harm.

“Vaccine-derived poliovirus has the potential to spread, particularly in communities where vaccine uptake is lower,” said Dr Vanessa Saliba, consultant epidemiologist at the UKHSA. “On rare occasions it can cause paralysis in people who are not fully vaccinated, so if you or your child are not up to date with your polio vaccinations it’s important you contact your GP to catch up or if unsure check your red book.”

“Most of the UK population will be protected from vaccination in childhood, but in some communities with low vaccine coverage, individuals may remain at risk,” she added.

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Source: The Guardian, 22 June 2022

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