Polio outbreak UK: Just a THIRD of teens in some parts of London have been vaccinated


Fewer than half of youngsters in elements of England have been vaccinated in opposition to polio, official knowledge suggests as well being chiefs sound the alarm over a suspected outbreak of the illness that has been eradicated in Britain for 20 years.

Mother and father of unvaccinated kids are to be contacted by the NHS as a part of a focused vaccine drive in London — the place polio is regarded as spreading — amid fears the illness might take off for the primary time in many years.

Youngsters are routinely immunised in opposition to polio however eight native authorities in England — principally in London — have 50 per cent or decrease uptake amongst 12 months 9s.

Simply 35 per cent of 13 and 14-year-olds are boosted in Hillingdon, West London, which has the worst protection within the nation,  adopted by Brent, the place a 3rd are absolutely vaccinated.

London has at all times lagged behind the remainder of the nation in relation to vaccine protection however charges dropped nationally through the pandemic, linked to a lull in appointments, college closures and an increase in vaccine hesitancy. 

Nottingham (50.4 per cent) and Middlesbrough (45.6 per cent) now even have a number of the poorest charges, in the meantime protection is beneath 60 per cent in Torbay, Leicester, Sandwell, Plymouth, Luton and Devon.

The UK Well being Safety Company declared a nationwide incident on Wednesday after discovering a number of optimistic polio samples in sewage which contained mutations that counsel the virus is evolving because it spreads between individuals.

They had been detected on the Beckton sewage remedy works, which covers a inhabitants of 4 million in north and east London.

It isn’t clear how far the virus has unfold however well being specialists are involved docs now not recognise the signs of polio as a result of it has been eradicated in Britain since 2003.

Whereas the virus can result in everlasting paralysis in uncommon circumstances, it sometimes causes flu-like signs that might simply be misdaignosed as different extra frequent infections, like Covid.

The above map, based on UKHSA data, looks at the share of Year 9s who had all three polio jabs in the 2020/2021 academic year. The final polio booster is offered to all children by the age of 14 as part of the NHS school vaccination programme

The above map, primarily based on UKHSA knowledge, appears to be like on the share of 12 months 9s who had all three polio jabs within the 2020/2021 educational yr. The ultimate polio booster is obtainable to all kids by the age of 14 as a part of the NHS college vaccination programme

Reported cases of polio worldwide from 1980 to 2020: The global rollout of vaccines in the late 20th century has caused cases of the disease to be squashed to just several hundred per year, mostly in Afghanistan, Pakistan and parts of Africa where it is still endemic. For comparison, there were more than 60,000 cases at the worst of the polio epidemic in 1982

Reported circumstances of polio worldwide from 1980 to 2020: The worldwide rollout of vaccines within the late twentieth century has brought on circumstances of the illness to be squashed to only a number of hundred per yr, principally in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elements of Africa the place it’s nonetheless endemic. For comparability, there have been greater than 60,000 circumstances on the worst of the polio epidemic in 1982 

In complete, uptake of the polio jab amongst 12 months 9s was beneath 50 per cent in six London boroughs and 1 / 4 of youngsters within the capital had not had their pre-school polio shot within the 2020/2021 educational yr. 

These figures are seemingly an underestimate as a result of some pupils should not supplied the ultimate polio booster jab till 12 months 10. As a part of the NHS college vaccination programme, all kids in England are eligible for a jab as infants after which once more at three years as a part of a pre-school booster. The ultimate course is given at age 14.

The information may be skewed as a consequence of college closures through the pandemic which prevented kids from getting their jabs and made knowledge assortment harder.  

Separate NHS figures present that by the age of two, nearly 95 per cent of UK kids have had the proper variety of doses. Nonetheless, this drops to only beneath 90 per cent in London. 

In terms of the pre-school booster, simply 71 per cent of youngsters in London have had it by the age of 5. That has raised issues the capital is susceptible to an outbreak of polio.

An investigation has now been launched to hint the optimistic samples, with north and east London set to be focused with a vaccination drive. Anybody discovered to be contaminated is likely to be requested to isolate.

The UKHSA believes a traveller, presumably from Pakistan, Afghanistan or Nigeria, shed the virus of their faeces after being given a dwell oral polio vaccine throughout an outbreak.

It’s seemingly they then contaminated kin by failing to clean their fingers correctly and contaminating foods and drinks. Officers are trying on the chance that only one household – or an prolonged household – could also be affected.

Jane Clegg, chief nurse for the NHS in London, stated: ‘The NHS will start reaching out to oldsters of youngsters aged beneath 5 in London who should not updated with their polio vaccinations to ask them to get protected.’

Well being Secretary Sajid Javid stated he was ‘not notably anxious’ about polio due to glorious vaccination charges.

However he advised BBC Radio 4’s PM programme: ‘As a precaution, sensibly what the NHS shall be doing in London is contacting these households which have kids age 5 or beneath and simply ensuring they’re updated with their polio vaccination standing.’

The virus was detected at the Beckton sewage treatment works, which covers a population of four million in north and east London

The virus was detected on the Beckton sewage remedy works, which covers a inhabitants of 4 million in north and east London

Great Britain was pronounced clear of polio in 2003 with the last case coming in 1984, but this week, experts repeatedly found samples of it in a waste water site in London. A young girl is pictured getting her polio jab in May 1956

Nice Britain was pronounced away from polio in 2003 with the final case coming in 1984, however this week, specialists repeatedly discovered samples of it in a waste water web site in London. A younger woman is pictured getting her polio jab in Could 1956

When polio weakened muscles used in breathing, patients used to be treated using an 'iron lung'. Pictured: A female patient in her iron lung at Fanzakerley hospital in Liverpool, now called Aintree University Hospital

When polio weakened muscle tissues utilized in respiration, sufferers was handled utilizing an ‘iron lung’. Pictured: A feminine affected person in her iron lung at Fanzakerley hospital in Liverpool, now known as Aintree College Hospital


Polio is a severe viral an infection that was frequent everywhere in the world.

The virus lives within the throat and intestines for as much as six weeks, with sufferers most infectious from seven to 10 days earlier than and after the onset of signs. 

However it may unfold to the spinal wire inflicting muscle weak point and paralysis. 

The virus is extra frequent in infants and younger kids and happens beneath circumstances of poor hygiene.

How lethal is it? 

Most individuals present no indicators of an infection in any respect however about one in 20 individuals have minor signs corresponding to fever, muscle weak point, headache, nausea and vomiting. 

Round one in 50 sufferers develop extreme muscle ache and stiffness within the neck and again. 

Lower than one per cent of polio circumstances lead to paralysis and one in 10 of these lead to dying.

Of those that develop signs, these have a tendency to look three-to-21 days after an infection and embrace:

  • Excessive temperature
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Stomach ache
  • Aching muscle tissues
  • Nausea and vomiting

How does it unfold?

Individuals can catch polio by way of droplets within the air when somebody coughs or sneezes, or if they arrive into contacted with the faeces of an contaminated individual.

This contains meals, water, clothes or toys.

Are there completely different strains?

There are three strains of ‘wild’ polio, which has been largely eradicated all through Europe, the Americas, Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific.

Sorts 2 and three had been eradicated due to a worldwide mass vaccine marketing campaign, with the final circumstances detected in 1999 and 2012 respectively.

The remaining, sort 1, wild polio stays endemic in solely two international locations, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Wild polio has been eradicated in nearly each nation on the earth due to vaccines.

However the world rollout has spawned new forms of strains often called vaccine-derived polioviruses.

These are strains that had been initially utilized in dwell vaccines however spilled out into the neighborhood and developed to behave extra just like the wild model. 

Is polio nonetheless round within the UK?

The final polio outbreak was within the Nineteen Seventies.

The final case of person-to-person transmission within the UK was in 1984, which additionally marked the final wild polio case.

However there have been a number of dozen circumstances of vaccine-derived polioviruses, though they’ve been one-offs, with no onward transmission.

Am I vaccinated in opposition to polio?

The polio vaccine is obtainable as a part of the NHS routine childhood vaccination programme.

It’s given at age eight, 12 and 16 weeks as a part of the six-in-one vaccine after which once more at three years as a part of a pre-school booster. The ultimate course is given at age 14.

Uptake has fallen barely nationally through the Covid pandemic however stays above 90 per cent nationally. Charges are decrease in London and in poor and ethnic minority communities.

Simply 86.7 per cent of one-year-olds in London have had their first dose dose of polio vaccine in comparison with the UK common of 92.6 per cent.

There are issues vaccine hesitancy has risen through the Covid disaster as a consequence of misinformation unfold about jabs for that virus and college closures.

Nice Britain was pronounced away from polio in 2003 with the final case coming in 1984, however specialists repeatedly discovered samples of it within the waste water web site in London this week.

Medical doctors, most of whom may have no direct expertise of the illness, had been yesterday given reminders of the signs and ordered to stay alert. Within the worst circumstances polio can paralyse and even kill.

Most individuals present no indicators of an infection in any respect however about one in 20 individuals have minor signs corresponding to fever, muscle weak point, headache, nausea and vomiting.

Round one in 50 sufferers develop extreme muscle ache and stiffness within the neck and again. Lower than one per cent of polio circumstances lead to paralysis and one in 10 of these lead to dying.

Unvaccinated adults and fogeys of youngsters who’re behind with their polio jabs are urged to contact a GP, and kids ought to have had 5 doses between the ages of eight weeks and 14 years.

The dwell oral polio vaccine has not been used within the UK since 2004 however it’s nonetheless deployed in some international locations, notably to reply to polio outbreaks. This vaccine generates intestine immunity and for a number of weeks after vaccination individuals can shed the vaccine virus of their faeces.

These viruses can unfold in under-protected communities and mutate right into a ‘vaccine-derived poliovirus’ throughout this course of. This behaves extra like naturally occurring ‘wild’ polio and will result in paralysis in unvaccinated people, as has occurred overseas.

The UK makes use of an inactivated polio vaccine, which is given as a part of a mixed jab to infants, toddlers and youngsters as a part of the NHS routine childhood vaccination schedule.

Vaccine-derived poliovirus sort 2 (VDPV2), the one which has been detected in London, is the commonest sort. There have been almost 1,000 circumstances of VDPV2 globally in 2020.

Since 2019 each nation on the earth has been utilizing vaccines that comprise inactivated variations of the virus that can’t trigger an infection or sickness.

However the UKHSA stated international locations the place the virus remains to be endemic proceed to make use of the dwell oral polio vaccine (OPV) in response to flare-ups.

That vaccine introduced the wild poliovirus to the brink of eradication and has many advantages.

In areas with low vaccination charges, the virus current within the jab can unfold and purchase speedy mutations that make it as infectious and virulent because the wild sort.

Regardless of clear indicators of transmission, no human circumstances have but been recognized and officers say the chance to the general public stays ‘extremely low’ due to excessive vaccination charges.

It’s regular for sampling to detect a couple of traces of poliovirus in sewage every year however these have beforehand been one-offs however officers say a pattern recognized in April was genetically linked to 1 first seen in February.

This has persevered and mutated right into a ‘vaccine-derived’ poliovirus, which is extra just like the ‘wild’ sort and might trigger the identical signs.

Dr Vanessa Saliba, advisor epidemiologist on the UKHSA, stated: ‘Vaccine-derived poliovirus is rare and the risk to the public overall is extremely low. Vaccine-derived poliovirus has the potential to spread, particularly in communities where vaccine uptake is lower.

‘On rare occasions it can cause paralysis in people who are not fully vaccinated so if you or your child are not up to date with your polio vaccinations it’s necessary you contact your GP to catch up or, if not sure, test your crimson e book.

‘Many of the UK inhabitants shall be shielded from vaccination in childhood, however in some communities with low vaccine protection, people could stay in danger.

‘We are urgently investigating to better understand the extent of this transmission and the NHS has been asked to swiftly report any suspected cases to the UKHSA, though no cases have been reported or confirmed so far.’

Through the early Nineteen Fifties the UK was rocked by a collection of polio epidemics, with 1000’s struggling paralysis every year. Mary Berry, the previous Nice British Bake Off decide, was hospitalised after contracting polio aged 13, leaving her with a twisted backbone and broken left hand.

Signs of polio can embrace a excessive temperature, a sore throat, a headache, abdomen ache, aching muscle tissues, feeling and being sick. Medical doctors can take a look at sufferers’ stool samples to assist analysis.

Nicholas Grassly, professor of vaccine epidemiology at Imperial Faculty London, stated: ‘Until polio is eradicated globally we will continue to face this infectious disease threat.’

It’s estimated there are 120,000 polio survivors within the UK, with the final time somebody contracted the illness was 38 years in the past in 1984.

How lengthy does the polio vaccine final? What are the virus’ signs? How many individuals are contaminated within the UK? EVERYTHING you want to know amid fears paralysis-causing virus is spreading

Wasn’t polio eradicated?

There are three variations of untamed polio – sort one, two and three.

Kind two was eradicated in 1999 and no circumstances of sort three have been detected since November 2012, when it was noticed in Nigeria. 

Each of those strains have been licensed as globally eradicated.

However sort one nonetheless circulates in two international locations – Pakistan and Afghanistan.

These variations of polio have been nearly pushed to extinction due to vaccines. 

However the world rollout has spawned new forms of strains often called vaccine-derived polioviruses.

These are strains that had been initially utilized in dwell vaccines however spilled out into the neighborhood and developed to behave extra just like the wild model.

How many individuals are contaminated?

Well being chiefs have not but detected an precise case. 

As an alternative, they’ve solely noticed the virus in sewage samples.

However they stated a number of closely-related polio viruses had been present in sewage samples taken in North and East London between February and Could.

This implies there has ‘seemingly’ been unfold between linked people who at the moment are shedding the pressure of their faeces.

The UK Well being Safety Company is investigating if any neighborhood transmission is going on.

It’s hoped that the circumstances shall be confined to a single family, or prolonged household. 

How does it unfold?

Like Covid, it may unfold when somebody inhales particles expelled by an contaminated one who coughs or sneezes.

Nevertheless it will also be unfold by coming into contact with meals, water, or objects which were contaminated with the faeces of somebody contaminated.

Locations with a excessive inhabitants, poor sanitation and excessive charges of diarrhoea-type sicknesses are notably vulnerable to seeing polio unfold.

Unvaccinated individuals are at a excessive threat of catching the an infection.

There may be some concern that the virus seems to be spreading in London, which has poorer polio vaccine uptake than the remainder of the nation.

How is polio recognized?

Medical doctors can spot polio primarily based on their signs. 

If an individual is within the first week of an sickness, a throat swabs is taken, or a faeces or blood pattern could be taken as much as 4 weeks after signs started.

The pattern is then despatched to a laboratory, with checks then confirming whether or not the virus is current.

What does a nationwide incident imply?

UKHSA pointers set out that when a vaccine-derived polio virus is noticed in Britain.

This instructs well being chiefs to arrange a nationwide response to handle and coordinate the way it responds.

It contains becoming a member of up native public well being groups. 

Whereas the polio samples have solely been noticed in London, well being chiefs say it’s vital to make sure different elements of the nation are conscious and taking mandatory motion to guard individuals of their space. 

How is polio handled?

There isn’t any remedy for polio, though vaccines can forestall it.

Therapy can solely alleviate its signs and decrease the chance of long-term downside.  

Gentle circumstances – that are the bulk – usually go with painkillers and relaxation.

However extra severe circumstances could require a hospital keep to be hooked as much as machines to assist their respiration and be helped with common stretches and workout routines to stop long-term issues with muscle tissues and joints.

Within the Nineteen Twenties, the iron lung – a respirator that resembled a ‘coffin on legs’ – was used to deal with polio. 

It was first used that decade to save lots of a toddler contaminated with the virus who wanted assist respiration.

Paul Alexander, 76, from Texas, remains to be within the machine right now, 70 years later, after contracting polio on the age of six in 1952.

I missed out on a vaccine as a toddler, can I nonetheless get it?

Well being chiefs have inspired everybody who’s unvaccinated in opposition to polio to contact their GP to catch up. 

Nonetheless, they warned vaccination efforts in London will focus initially on reaching out to oldsters of under-fives that haven’t had or missed their jabs, amid fears it’s spreading within the capital.

The NHS at the moment gives the polio jab as half of a kid’s routine vaccination schedule. The polio vaccine is included within the six-in-one vaccination, which is given to kids when they’re eight, 12 and 16 weeks outdated.

Safety in opposition to polio is boosted in top-up jabs when youngers are three-years-and-four-months outdated and when they’re 14.

Most Londoners are absolutely jabbed in opposition to polio. However uptake will not be 100 per cent.

How lengthy does safety from the polio vaccine final?

Scientists have no idea how lengthy individuals who obtained the inactivated polio vaccine, the one used within the UK, lasts for.

However they count on it present immunity for years after getting jabbed.

Two doses are 90 per cent efficient, whereas three doses are 100 per cent efficient. 

Can it kill?

Polio can kill in uncommon circumstances. However it’s extra well-known for inflicting paralysis, which may result in everlasting incapacity and dying.

As much as a tenth of people who find themselves paralysed by the virus die, because the virus impacts the muscle tissues that assist them breathe.

What are polio’s signs?

Three-quarters of individuals contaminated with polio wouldn’t have any seen signs.

Round one-quarter may have flu-like signs, corresponding to a sore throat, fever, tiredness, nausea, a headache and abdomen ache. These signs normally last as long as 10 days then go away on their very own.

However as much as one in 200 will develop extra severe signs that may have an effect on the mind and spinal wire. This contains paraesthesia – pins and needles within the leg – and paralysis, which is when an individual cannot transfer elements of the physique.

This isn’t normally everlasting and motion will slowly come again over the following few weeks or months.

Nonetheless, even children who seem to completely get well from polio can develop muscle ache, weak point or paralysis as an grownup – 15 to 40 years after they had been contaminated.

Do vaccines trigger polio?

Though extraordinarily uncommon, circumstances of vaccine-derived polio have been reported.

They don’t make the vaccinated individual sick however relatively trigger them to shed tiny items of the virus, which may then infect different, unvaccinated individuals.

That is solely the case with the oral polio vaccine, which makes use of a dwell and weakened model of the virus to stimulate an immune response.

However, over time, the pressure can mutate to behave extra like wild variations of polio. 

How did polio find yourself within the UK?

The polio noticed in Britain was detected in sewage, which is monitored by well being chiefs, relatively than in an individual.

This implies the virus has been imported from a rustic the place the dwell polio vaccine remains to be getting used.

Professor Paul Hunter, an infectious illness professional on the College of East Anglia, stated: ‘Such vaccine derived transmission occasions are properly described and most finally fizzle out with out inflicting any hurt however that will depend on vaccination protection being improved.’

May this set off an outbreak?

Uptake of the polio vaccine is round 90 per cent throughout the UK so it’s unlikely to trigger a large outbreak.

Nevertheless it has dipped additional during the last yr because of the knock-on results of the pandemic.

There are issues vaccine hesitancy has risen through the Covid disaster as a consequence of misinformation unfold about jabs for that virus and college closures.

Consultants say one of the simplest ways to stop the virus from spreading is for Britons to make sure their vaccinations are updated, particularly for youngsters.

Dr Kathleen O’Reilly, an affiliate professor in statistics for infectious illness and professional in polio eradication, stated that each one international locations are vulnerable to an outbreak till all polio circumstances are stopped globally. 

This ‘highlights the necessity for polio eradication, and continued world assist for such an endeavour’, she added.

When was final time Britain noticed a case of polio?

The final time somebody caught polio throughout the UK was in 1984 and Britain was declared polio-free in 2003.

However there have been dozens of imported circumstances since then, which are sometimes detected in sewage surveillance.

Nonetheless, these have at all times been one-off findings that weren’t detected once more and occurred when an individual vaccinated abroad with the dwell oral polio vaccine travelled to the UK and ‘shed’ traces of the virus of their faeces.

Now, UK well being officers have detected a number of closely-related viruses in sewage samples taken between February and Could. This discovering suggests there was unfold between shut contacts in North and East London, the place the samples had been collected.

The place did polio originate?

Polio epidemics, when the virus is continually spreading inside a neighborhood, didn’t begin occurring till the late 1800s.

However scientists say that it’s an historical illness that first struck individuals in Egypt as early as 1570 BC. That is primarily based on depictions of paralysis and weak limbs from that point.

A physician in London was the primary to publish a transparent description of polio in infants in a medical textbook in 1789.


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