London offers all children polio boosters after more virus found in city sewers
London is offering all children between the ages of one and nine a polio vaccine booster after more polio virus was found in the city’s sewers. File photo from Hossein Fatemi/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 10 (UPI) — Health officials in London are offering polio vaccine boosters to all children between the ages of one and nine after more polio virus was found in the city’s sewers.

While there have been no confirmed cases of polio, Britain’s National Health Service warned Wednesday there has been “some transmission” of the virus after detecting vaccine-derived polio virus in sewage in Barnet, Brent, Camden, Enfield, Hackney, Haringey, Islington and Waltham Forest.

Polio is a serious infection, spread by coughs and sneezes, that can cause paralysis. It mainly affects children under the age of five, but can also infect unvaccinated adults. The overall risk is considered low because most people are protected by vaccination.

“No cases of polio have been reported and for the majority of the population, who are fully vaccinated, the risk is low. But we know the areas in London where the polio virus is being transmitted have some of the lowest vaccination rates,” Dr. Vanessa Saliba, consultant epidemiologist at UK Health Security Agency, said in a statement.

“This is why the virus is spreading in these communities and puts those residents not fully vaccinated at greater risk,” Saliba said.

London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan tweeted an alert Wednesday urging all children under age 10 to get a polio booster vaccine. The mayor said the NHS will contact parents when it is their child’s turn for a booster or catch-up polio dose.

British health officials declared a national incident in June after traces of the virus were found in London’s wastewater during routine maintenance at Beckton Sewage Treatment Works.

UKHSA has been working closely with health agencies in New York to investigate any links between the polio virus detected in London and polio virus discovered in wastewater samples in Rockland and Orange Counties in the last few months. It is the first time the virus has been found anywhere in the United States in more than a decade.

In Pakistan, eight children in the same region contracted the virus in May and June as that country faces an escalation in polio cases.

While the virus has been eradicated in most parts of the world due to childhood vaccination, polio is still found in Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan.

Britain’s last confirmed case of wild polio was in 1984. The nation was declared free of the disease in 2003.

“It is vital parents ensure their children are fully vaccinated for their age,” Saliba said Wednesday.

“All children aged 1 to 9 years in London need to have a dose of polio vaccine now — whether it’s an extra booster dose or just to catch up with their routine vaccinations,” she said. “It will ensure a high level of protection from paralysis. This may also help stop the virus spreading further.”

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