Poliovirus found in sewage has become a rising concern about the possibility of viral spread
Polio is believed to be eradicated in most first-world countries, including the UK. However, the London Beckton Sewage Treatment Works (LBSTW) recently detected poliovirus in many sewage samples. Health officials believe the poliovirus found in sewage samples could have been brought to the country by someone vaccinated with the oral polio vaccine, which contains a live form of the virus. The UK stopped using OPV in 2004 and has been using vaccines that contain a dead form of the virus, i.e., the inactivated polio vaccine (IPV).
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) says they detect “vaccine-like polioviruses” in sewage 1 to 3 times per year. However, the recent samples exceeded that amount in just four months of the year. This time the test of the recent samples shows that the virus has evolved and “is now categorized as a ‘vaccine-derived’ poliovirus type 2 (VDPV 2).” On rare occasions, vaccine-derived can cause severe illnesses like paralysis in people who are not fully vaccinated.
There are no reported transmission cases yet, but officials encourage people to check their vaccination status. Dr. Vanessa Saliba, consultant epidemiologist, UKHSA, “If you or your child have not updated your polio vaccinations, it’s important you contact your GP to catch up or if unsure, check your Red Book.”