The UK Health Security Agency has issued a warning that the polio virus has resurfaced and may be spreading in London after it was declared eradicated 40 years ago.
Health officials warned today that polio may be spreading in the UK for the first time in nearly 40 years as they declared a “national incident.”
In some areas of London, sewage tests were found to contain traces of the virus, which authorities say is ‘likely’ spreading within the neighbourhood.
In particular, during the pandemic when school vaccination programs were disrupted, parents are asked to make sure their children are up to date with their polio vaccinations.
The first of three polio vaccinations, which are required for all British children, should have been given as a baby, but uptake in London lags behind the rest of the nation.
One out of every 100 cases of polio results in permanent paralysis and is spread by coughing, sneezing, or touching objects that have been contaminated with faeces. Children are more vulnerable.
According to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), the virus was discovered many times between February and May and has since mutated.
It is believed that someone who had the live polio vaccine—which uses a weakened version of the virus—outside of the UK may have brought some of the pathogen with them in their stool.
However, health officials claim that the risk to the general public is “extremely low,” and they are currently conducting urgent investigations to identify any infected individuals.
There have been numerous imported cases since 1984, when the last case of polio occurred in the UK. In 2003, the United Kingdom was declared polio-free.