Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Paralytic poliomyelitis in England and Wales, 1985-91.

BMJ 1992; 305 doi: (Published 11 July 1992) Cite this as: BMJ 1992;305:79
  1. R. Joce,
  2. D. Wood,
  3. D. Brown,
  4. N. Begg
  1. East and North Hertfordshire Health Authority, Welwyn Garden City.


    OBJECTIVES--To ascertain all cases of paralytic poliomyelitis in England and Wales during 1985-91 and to determine the source of infection in each case. DESIGN--Descriptive study of cases reported between 1985 and 1991. SETTING--All health districts in England and Wales. SUBJECTS--Patients normally resident in England and Wales whose clinical features were consistent with paralytic poliomyelitis or with laboratory evidence of recent poliovirus infection and compatible symptoms. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES--Clinical, epidemiological, and laboratory features in identified cases. RESULTS--Of 54 suspected cases of poliomyelitis, 33 were excluded, leaving 21 cases, of which 13 were vaccine associated (nine recipient and four contact) cases, five were imported cases, and three were cases whose source of infection was unknown. No cases due to indigenous wild polioviruses were identified; two were imported cases due to wild viruses. One patient died during the acute phase of the illness, and two children with previously unrecognised severe congenital immune deficiency died between one and two months after the onset of paralysis after the first or second dose of oral polio vaccine. The estimated risk of vaccine associated paralysis is 1.46 per million for the first dose, 0.49 for the second, zero for the third and fourth doses, and 0.33 for the fifth. CONCLUSIONS--Indigenous wild poliovirus seems to have been eradicated, although wild virus may be imported; improved surveillance of suspected cases including immediate notification and characterisation of the virus to ensure that eradication is maintained is essential.