Baron Kamall added that agencies responsible for investigations are using tools “unrivaled in the world” to understand how to “follow along the pipelines” in order to identify the origin of the virusfound during routine analysis in the British capital.The precise location could be reduced to “houses or streets”, assured Kamall. “In theory, it might be possible to find individual buildings or streets,” he said.
Health officials underlined that the risk to the population remains extremely low but that there is a possibility of the virus, eradicated in the country in 2003, to spread to the community.
The UK Health and Safety Agency (UKHSA) launched a national alert on Wednesday after traces of the poliovirus were identified between February and June in routine surveillance samples at the Beckton Wastewater Treatment Plant which serves around four million people in the north and east of the capital.
The detection of this poliovirus “suggests that there is likely to have been some spread among individuals with close relationships in North and East London“, said the UKHSA, although so far it has not identified any case of an infected person. The virus has only been found in sewers.
detect the origin
Members of Parliament questioned the executive about the measures taken after the samples were identified.Lord Kamall assured that the NHS, the British National Health Service, would “contact” the parents of children in London who have not been vaccinated against polio. He added that the government’s “clear” message was for the entire population to ensure that their vaccines were up to date.
The Secretary of State stressed that the detected virus probably originated from a recently vaccinated person against polio in another country.
The annual detection in sewers of one of the three types of poliovirus vaccine strains is considered normal in the UK due to people vaccinated abroad with oral vaccines which are made with the live virus which can leave traces in faeces.
“It’s mixed with a lot of other things,” said Baron Kamall. “But what we have to try and figure out is how to go along the conduit, in a way, and investigate the individual pipes to see if we can locate the source.”
What is the polio virus and how is it spread?
The polio virus is highly contagious and can be transmitted through the infected person’s coughing and sneezing, but also through food, water or objects that have been in contact with the feces of an infected person.The disease can cause paralysis and has no cure, mainly affecting children under five years of age, although it can infect unvaccinated adults.
The virus has been eradicated in most parts of the world thanks to intensive and ongoing global vaccination programs, but it is still found in Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan.
In the United Kingdom, where the last case of polio was recorded in 1984, statistics show that 95 percent of children up to the age of two were vaccinated with the correct number of doses of vaccine.
In London the numbers fall below 90 percent. According to the BBC, in London only 86 percent of residents have the three doses compared to over 92 percent in the rest of the UK..
UKHSA believes that the virus may have reached the UK earlier this year via a person vaccinated abroadpossibly in Afghanistan, Pakistan or Nigeria and that person has possibly infected other individuals.
The agency urged physicians and health professionals to “extensively investigate and report any suspected cases of acute flaccid paralysis” that cannot be explained for non-infectious causes.
It also calls on health centers to verify that patients have received polio vaccines, as well as to place “special emphasis” on immunizing “new migrants, asylum seekers and refugees”.