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UK’s hunt to contain polio CAN work: Minister says source of London’s ‘outbreak’ could be narrowed down to ONE home or street amid fears paralysis-causing virus is spreading for first time since 1980s
- Source of polio virus found in sewage samples could be traced house or street
- Health minister said ‘world-beating’ tactics learned in pandemic being deployed
- He revealed investigation will see officials ‘go along the pipes’ to locate virus
The source of the polio virus found in sewage samples could be traced back to a single house or street, a health minister has said.
Lord Kamall said ‘world-beating’ tactics learned during the Covid pandemic were being deployed to track down patient zero.
He revealed the investigation will see officials ‘go along the pipes’ to locate where the virus came from.
Positive samples were first detected at a sewage plant in Beckton which covers a population of 4million people in North and East London.
‘In theory it might be possible to find individual households and streets but it is too early,’ Lord Kamall said.
The UKHSA is working on the theory that a person vaccinated abroad with the polio vaccine — possibly in Afghanistan, Pakistan or Nigeria — entered the UK early in 2022 and was shedding the virus.
The virus was detected at the Beckton sewage treatment works, which covers a population of four million in north and east London
The polio vaccine is given at age eight, 12 and 16 weeks as part of the six-in-one vaccine and then again at three years as part of a pre-school booster. The final course is given at age 14. The World Health Organization has set the threshold of a successful school jabs programme at 95 per cent uptake, which England is failing to hit by all accounts
Parents are being urged to ensure their children’s polio vaccinations are up to date, particularly after the pandemic when school immunisation schemes were disrupted and uptake fell. Pictured, a girl gets her four-in-one pre-school jab offered by the NHS
Fewer than HALF of teenagers in some parts of England have been vaccinated against polio
Fewer than half of teenagers in parts of England have been vaccinated against polio, official data suggests as health chiefs sound the alarm over a suspected outbreak of the disease that has been eradicated in Britain for decades.
Parents of unvaccinated children are to be contacted by the NHS as part of a targeted vaccine drive in London — where polio is thought to be spreading — amid fears the disease could take off for the first time in 40 years.
Children are routinely immunised against polio but eight local authorities in England — mostly in the capital — had 50 per cent or lower uptake among Year 9s last year.
Just 35 per cent of 13 and 14-year-olds had received their final booster in Hillingdon, West London, which has the worst coverage in the country, followed by Brent, where a third were fully vaccinated.
London has always lagged behind the rest of the country when it comes to vaccine coverage but rates dropped nationally during the pandemic, linked to a lull in appointments, school closures and a rise in vaccine hesitancy.
Nottingham (50.4 per cent) and Middlesbrough (45.6 per cent) now also have some of the poorest rates, meanwhile coverage is below 60 per cent in Torbay, Leicester, Sandwell, Plymouth, Luton and Devon.
The UK Health Security Agency declared a national incident yesterday after finding multiple positive polio samples in sewage which contained mutations that suggest the virus is evolving as it spreads between people.
That person has now infected others in north-east London by failing to wash their hands properly and contaminating food and drink or possibly through coughing and sneezing.
Experts are looking at the possibility that just one family or extended family may be affected.
‘This is really world-beating in what we are doing here, it is a first and it shows that we are ahead, but one of the issues with being ahead is that we detect things that would not have been detected earlier,’ Lord Kamall said.
He stressed: ‘No-one has got polio and no cases have been identified, what it is is that we have found it in the sewage.’
Labour’s Lord Reid of Cardowan called on the Government to maintain ‘maximum transparency’ about the national incident, and asked if worries about the Covid vaccine had led to a ‘fairly substantial decline in vaccinations for other potential diseases’.
Latest figures show that by the age of two in the UK, almost 95 per cent of children have had the correct number of polio vaccine doses.
However, this drops to just under 90 per cent in London.
Lord Kamall replied that the Government was ‘quite clear’ that ‘people must come forward for all vaccines’.
He added: ‘What is really important is that we recognise that vaccine-derived polio can potentially spread but it is rare and the risk to the public overall is limited.’
The minister also said the NHS would be ‘reaching out to parents’ with children under five years old in London who are not up to date.
‘But we are asking for it both ways, for parents to check their records,’ he added.
‘The UK is considered to be free from polio, so let’s be quite clear about that, and we are recognising a potential risk given this world-leading surveillance of sewage.’
Labour frontbencher Baroness Merron said the health minister should work ‘closely with the Treasury to ensure a properly funded communications and vaccination campaign.’