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All children under 10 in London will be offered polio vaccine after virus was detected

Rachel Lang

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| Last updated 

All children under 10 in London will be offered polio vaccine after virus was detected

Featured Image Credit: Vyacheslav Lopatin /Alamy. A.P.S. (UK) / Alamy Stock Photo

Health officials are hoping to curb the spread of polio after traces of the virus were found in sewerage systems in multiple boroughs across London.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) revealed that 116 samples of polioviruses had been identified in 19 sewage samples from boroughs in north-east and central London.

The boroughs include Barnet, Camden, Hackney, Haringey, Islington, and Waltham Forest.

As a result, parents of all children aged under 10 in London are being urged to visit their doctor for a targeted inactivated polio vaccine.

A child with polio before the vaccine was introduced. Credit: Everett Collection Historical/Alamy
A child with polio before the vaccine was introduced. Credit: Everett Collection Historical/Alamy

UKHSA Consultant Epidemiologist Dr Vanessa Saliba said while the risk is low, it is important parents continue to vaccinate their children.

"No cases of polio have been reported and for the majority of the population, who are fully vaccinated, the risk is low," she said, as per a UKHSA statement.

"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."

Polio is a serious infection that can cause paralysis, however there have been no confirmed paralysis polio cases in the UK since 1984.

In the decades before the UK's polio vaccination programme, around 8,000 people would develop paralysis every year, according to the National Health Service (NHS).

Today, the overall risk is low thanks to vaccination rates, but parents are still being urged by the NHS and UKHSA to ensure their children's inoculations are up to date.

This is to ensure protection from paralysis and to prevent the virus from spreading further.

NHS London Chief Nurse Jane Clegg said that while the majority of Londoners are protected from polio, the health department will be contacting parents of eligible children to offer them a top-up dose so they have maximum protection from the virus.

Further testing of sewerage across London will continue, with the UKHSA working with the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency to assess the extent of spread of the virus.

A further 15 sites in London will start sewage sampling in mid-August, and 10 to 15 sites will be stood up nationally to determine if poliovirus is spreading outside of London.

Topics: Health, UK News

Rachel Lang
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