Traces of the deadly polio virus have been found during routine sampling of the sewage water in London, suggesting that there may be community spread of the disease within the UK’s capital. It is the first time that polio has been found in the sewage months apart since 1984.

The contaminated sample was found at the Beckton Sewage Treatment Works, but health experts say the risk to the general public is low due to the fact that almost all British citizens are vaccinated against polio.

Health officials are now carrying out testing in the community to see where the disease may be coming from and who may be carrying it. It is strongly suspected that polio will have been brought into the UK from a country where the disease is still prevalent, such as Pakistan and Nigeria.

Dr Vanessa Saliba, a consultant epidemiologist, told Sky News:

“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 important you contact your GP to catch up or, if unsure, check your red book.”


“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. 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.”

Professor Adam Finn, a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), also speaking to Sky News, said:

“I’m afraid there is reason to suggest it spread because this has been picked up now over a period of several months. And when we see importations that are like a one off, if you like, somebody who’s recently been vaccinated, that usually just pops up for a short time and then disappears, whereas we’re seeing genetically related viruses persistently over a period of months now. And that strongly suggests that there’s transmission going on between people within the UK and in this area of London in particular.”

[Based on reporting by: Sky News]

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