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
That person has now passed it on to other closely linked individuals in north-east London, who in turn are shedding the virus into their faeces.
‘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 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% of children have had the correct number of polio vaccine doses.
However, this drops to just under 90% 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.’