London plans polio vaccine recalls as more virus is found in sewage

LONDON — Every child in London aged 1 to 9 should be offered a booster dose of the polio vaccine, British health authorities said on Wed...


LONDON — Every child in London aged 1 to 9 should be offered a booster dose of the polio vaccine, British health authorities said on Wednesday, after traces of the virus were found in sewage samples at a quarter of the city’s boroughs, although no individual cases of the disease have been reported.

Health authorities declared a nationwide incident in June – a designation used to highlight the potential seriousness of the problem – after sewage samples suggested the virus was spreading in London. Now, officials said, samples indicated it had spread beyond a tight network of a few individuals.

Normally routine sewage monitoring in Britain detects the virus once or twice a year, the UK Health Security Agency said in a statement, but between February and July 116 samples of type 2 poliovirus were found. were detected in samples from eight London boroughs in the north and east of the city.

“No polio cases have been reported and for the majority of the population, who are fully vaccinated, the risk is low,” said Dr Vanessa Saliba, consultant epidemiologist at the health agency. said in the statement.

“But we know that the areas of London where poliovirus is transmitted have some of the lowest vaccination rates. This is why the virus is spreading in these communities and putting residents who are not fully vaccinated at greater risk.

Poliomyelitis, which can cause paralysis, was once a deeply feared childhood disease, but it has been virtually eradicated by vaccination. The last known case in Britain was in 1984, and a case discovered in Rockland County, NY, last month was the first in the United States for almost a decade. Wild poliovirus has been eliminated from every country in the world except Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The traces found in London’s sewage, like the case in New York state, involved a poliovirus derived from the oral polio vaccine, which uses a weakened live form of the virus that immunized people excrete for a short time.

In rare cases, in communities with low vaccination coverage, the virus can spread. In very rare cases – usually when vaccine protection is low enough that it circulates for at least a year, according to the World Health Organization – it can gradually mutate into a form that can paralyze.

Most of the London sewage samples contained a form of the virus still very close to the harmless version of the vaccine, the UK Health Safety Agency said, but a few carried enough mutations to cause serious illness.

Oral polio vaccination is no longer routinely given in Britain, which, like the United States, now favors a vaccine using inactivated – in effect, dead – virus.

The UK Health Security Agency said the vaccination rate for children in London was lower than the rest of the country. Recent figures in London suggest wider vaccination coverage of 86.6%, according to the Global Polio Eradication Initiativewhich should generally be sufficient to prevent widespread transmission of the virus.

“While the majority of Londoners are protected against polio, the NHS will soon be contacting parents of eligible children aged one to nine years to offer them a top-up dose to ensure they receive maximum protection against the virus,” said Jane Clegg, the chief nurse at Britain’s National Health Service in London, adding that doctors were already contacting parents and caregivers of children whose vaccinations were not up to date..

Britain’s Health Security Agency said on Wednesday it was working closely with the World Health Organization, as well as health agencies in New York and Israel, to investigate links between the outbreak of poliovirus in London and recent episodes in Israel and the United States.

Many countries around the world, including the United States and Israel, already provide an additional polio vaccine booster as part of their childhood immunization schedule. Britain regularly offers a pre-school booster vaccine, which includes polio, to children aged 3 years and 4 months.

The UK health agency also said on Wednesday it had already stepped up sewage monitoring in London and that 10 to 15 sites across the country would be checked to determine if the poliovirus had spread outside of London.

Apoorva Mandavilli contributed reporting from New York.

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Newsrust - US Top News: London plans polio vaccine recalls as more virus is found in sewage
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