London: Health authorities in the UK have found poliovirus in sewage samples in London, 19 years after it was eliminated by 2003.
According to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), the poliovirus in sewage samples collected by London’s Beckton Sewage Treatment Works was likely imported into London by someone who was recently vaccinated abroad with a live form of the virus.
The virus has evolved and is now classified as ‘vaccine-derived’ poliovirus type 2 (VDPV2), which in rare cases can cause serious illness, including paralysis, in people who are not fully vaccinated.
But the virus has only been detected in sewage samples and no associated cases of paralysis have been reported in the country, the UKHSA said.
It added that further investigations are underway to determine if community transmission is occurring.
However, officials said the vaccine-derived poliovirus is rare and the overall risk to the public is extremely low.
“Vaccine-derived poliovirus has the potential to spread, particularly in communities where vaccine uptake is lower. In rare cases it can cause paralysis in people who are not fully vaccinated,” said Vanessa Saliba, UKHSA’s consultant epidemiologist, in a statement.
She also urged people to keep up to date on polio vaccinations, especially parents of young children who may have missed an opportunity to be vaccinated.
In addition, the agency said that the detection of a VDPV2 suggests there was likely some spread between closely related people in North and East London and that they are now carrying the type 2 poliovirus strain in their faeces retire
Several closely related viruses were also found in sewage samples collected between February and May.
The UK was declared polio-free in 2003. The last case of wild polio contracted in the UK was confirmed in 1984.