Health officials in the United Kingdom are being advised to ensure that they and their children are up-to-date in with their polio vaccinations.
The warning came after scientists found evidence that the polio virus might spreading in the country for the first time in decades.
The U.K. Health Security Agency declared a national incident after poliovirus was discovered in the course of routine London sewage samples.
No cases have been reported thus far.
The U.K. was declared free from polio in 2003 after routine vaccination was introduced in 1956. The last case time a case of “wild polio” was contracted was 1984.
“It is normal for 1 to 3 ‘vaccine-like’ polioviruses to be detected each year in UK sewage samples but these have always been one-off findings that were not detected again,” the agency said.
“These previous detections occurred when an individual vaccinated overseas with the live oral polio vaccine returned or travelled to the UK and briefly ‘shed’ traces of the vaccine-like poliovirus in their faeces,” it added.
The cause for raising the alarm because the virus “continued to evolve and is now classified as a ‘vaccine-derived’ poliovirus type 2, which on rare occasions can cause serious illness, such as paralysis in people who are not fully vaccinated,” the UKHSA said.
A consultant epidemiologist at the agency, Vanessa Saliba, nonetheless said the findings are sufficient cause to tell people to check on their vaccination status.
“Most of the UK population will be protected from vaccination in childhood, but in some communities with low vaccine coverage, individuals may remain at risk,” Saliba said in the statement released by the agency.
“The detection of a VDPV2 suggests it is likely there has been some spread between closely-linked individuals in North and East London and that they are now shedding the type 2 poliovirus strain in their faeces,” the agency said in the statement.
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