Polio: Greater London

Department of Health and Social Care written question – answered at on 6 July 2022.

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Photo of Catherine West Catherine West Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what assessment he has made of potential implications of the recent detection of the poliovirus in London sewage; and what assessment he has made of the potential risk of people contracting the virus.

Photo of Maggie Throup Maggie Throup The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care

The UK Heath Security Agency (UKHSA) is investigating poliovirus detected in sewage samples collected from the London Beckton Sewage Treatment Works between February and June 2022. Evidence suggests that it is likely there has been some transmission between closely linked individuals in North and East London and type 2 poliovirus is being shed in their faeces. However, the virus has only been detected in sewage samples and no associated cases of paralysis have been reported. The last case of wild polio contracted in the United Kingdom was confirmed in 1984 and the UK was declared polio-free in 2003. The risk to the public 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.

The UKHSA and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency is expanding the wastewater surveillance to assess the extent of transmission and identify local areas for targeted action. An alert has been issued to health professionals to ensure that suspected cases are rapidly investigated and reported. The UKHSA is raising awareness of the need for the public to receive routine vaccinations and the National Health Service is contacting parents of children in London aged under five years old who have not received a polio vaccination.

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