UK health authorities have concluded that there has been human-to-human transmission of polio virus in certain areas of London in recent months. The disease was eliminated from the United Kingdom in 2003, so the signs detected alarmed the Health Security Agency (UKHSA) to declare a “national incident”. This is the step prior to declaring an emergency, and requires a detailed investigation of the alert.
Between February and May this year, several genetically similar samples of the virus were discovered at the Becton wastewater treatment plant, east of the British capital. The factory serves more than four million people.
Until just over a decade ago, the United Kingdom introduced the oral polio vaccine, which contains a “weakened” version of the virus capable of stimulating the immune system. This type of vaccine is already used in only a limited number of countries. In the West, polio is now immunized with “inactivated vaccines,” which contain a dose of an already killed pathogen. They require booster injections to effectively stimulate defenses, but avoid the risk of the virus mutating and becoming fatal.
It is normal, on routine inspections, that every year a sample of the oral vaccine virus is found in British wastewater, Still very present in country campaigns Such as Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria. The conclusion is always that it comes from someone who brought the virus with them to the UK. The gravity of the latest discovery lies in the fact that the samples detected, which are similar and persisted over a period of time, correspond to poliovirus type 2 (VDPV2), a “vaccine-derived” mutation that can cause serious illness, such as paralysis. , in people who have not been vaccinated.
Dr Vanessa Saliba, a consultant epidemiologist at UKHSA, said: “Vaccine-derived polioviruses are extremely rare, and the health risks to the population are extremely low. “However, they have the potential to spread, especially in communities where the vaccination rate is low,” said Saliba, who has asked parents whose children’s immune cards have not been updated to see their pediatrician immediately. The vaccine is provided as a three-dose course. before you are one year old; in the third, and finally at 14. If 92% of minors across the UK have completed immunization, in the case of London the figure is 86%. Although the United Kingdom is considered by the World Health Organization to be a polio eradication country, with a very low risk of transmission due to the high level of vaccination, the rate of immunization has begun to slow.
“Most Londoners are protected from polio and do not need to take extraordinary measures,” said Jane Clegg, chief nurse at NHS London. “But the NHS will start calling parents of children under five who do not have updated cards to encourage them to do so,” Clegg said.
So far, the health authorities have not treated any patients showing symptoms of the disease. Polio is usually spread by people who have not washed their hands after defecation and touched food or water that others have consumed. In rare cases, transmission of infection can occur through coughing or sneezing. Most infected people do not have any symptoms, or simply have a flu-like illness for two or three weeks. But in a few rare cases (one in 100 to one in 1,000), the virus can attack nerves in the spine or the base of the brain, causing paralysis, usually in the legs. If it affects the muscles that control the respiratory system, the consequences can be fatal.
UK health authorities have expanded the investigation to areas adjacent to a sewage treatment plant where samples were detected, and have put health workers on alert to monitor the possible appearance of a symptomatic patient.
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