The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has declared a national incident after finding evidence of poliovirus in London sewage during ongoing disease surveillance. The Global Polio Laboratory Network (GPLN) of the World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed that the environmental samples found in London contained type 2 vaccine-derived poliovirus (VDPV2). It also assured that the virus was isolated from environmental samples only and that no associated cases have been detected. They also did not find any evidence of the circulation of polio in UK.
A similar kind of isolate was found in February and May 2022 in London as well. The lab said it was type 2 vaccine-like poliovirus (SL2), and it had the same origin as the recently found VDPV2. However, they still need to identify the source as they continue analysing the additional samples taken from the wastewater plant’s inlet. This will allow them to triangulate a point of origin, focusing on vaccinating that area first.
Polio in UK after 40 Years
Learning about the return of polio in UK for the first time in 40 years has the public reeling. The UK has been declared polio-free since 2003, but people travelling back and forth in the country can bring it along. According to reports, tests on the sewage system pick up several viruses, including polio, each year.
These viruses often come from people who received oral polio vaccination (OPV) in another country and then went to the UK. OPV receivers can defecate a weak version of polio for several weeks. However, the health officials have confirmed that the risk of transmission is low, but it might be dangerous for a single household or extended family.
Does UK Need more Polio Vaccination?
The country stopped using the OPV in 2004 and began administering inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) by injection. It is a 6-in-1 vaccine for babies ages 8, 12, and 16. Boosters are also offered at the age of 3 and 14.
The polio vaccination rate in the UK is excellent, where around 95% of all 5-year-olds are covered. However, London lags a bit behind other cities. Here only 91.2% of aged 5 children are vaccinated. National Health Services (NHS) will reportedly contact the parents of those remaining children in response to the detection of polio in UK again.
Which Countries Still Have Polio?
Polio is eradicated from the entire world except in 2 countries, where it is endemic. These countries are Pakistan and Afghanistan. 2 years ago, Nigeria was among them, but the African nation won the battle against the virus. In comparison, Pakistan has reported more than 8 cases of polio in children in 2022 after a whole year of 0 cases. The outbreak was reportedly due to the negligence of parents who falsely marked themselves and their children vaccinated. The centre of the outbreak was North Waziristan, a former Taliban stronghold famous for its anti-vax stance. Besides the additional efforts of the state, citizens also need to take steps to achieve a polio-free Pakistan.
On the other hand, Afghanistan, which is going through a humanitarian crisis, has failed to eradicate polio despite its best efforts. A weak healthcare system, political challenges, and socioeconomic ruin are the major reasons for the delay in progress against polio. For 6 months in 2020, the polio vaccination program was completely shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Around 23 million children were left out of their routine vaccinations. In 2022, the country has reported 1 case of wild polio (WP1) and 40 cases of VDPV2.
Many British nationalists pointed out that these countries were the reason for polio in UK. It also allowed them to propagate the disadvantages of immigration.