Protection against eradicated virus: London plans major polio vaccination campaign for children

Protection from eradicated virus
London plans major polio vaccination campaign for children

The polio virus is considered eradicated in most countries. In Great Britain, the last case occurred in 1984, until the pathogen suddenly reappeared in London sewage. No new cases of infection have been reported so far. The British health authorities still do not want to take any risks.

In London, a million children are to receive a booster vaccination against polio after the pathogen was detected in the British capital’s sewage. According to the British Department of Health, a booster vaccination against polio is recommended for all children aged one to nine years.

Poliomyelitis – the medical term for polio – was common around the world until a vaccine was found in the 1950s. The infectious disease is now considered eradicated in most regions of the world. In the UK, the last case was recorded in 1984.

The oral vaccination against polio completely protects vaccinated people from infection, but it can lead to contamination of other people via faeces in the wastewater contaminated with vaccine viruses. The resulting virus variant, while weaker than wild poliovirus, can still cause serious illness and paralysis in unvaccinated people. Small children are particularly affected.

Expert fears local spread

The authorities in London have not yet identified any new cases of infection. However, the findings in several sewage treatment plants indicated “that there is a certain level of virus transmission in these districts that can spread to adjacent areas,” the ministry said.

The polio expert Kathlene O’Reilly fears “a local spread of the polio virus”. Most likely people with missing or incomplete immunization are affected. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the polio vaccination rate in London is just under 87 percent – lower than in the rest of the country. The US also recently reported its first polio case in almost a decade.

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