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Polio: What do we know about the polioviruses detected in the UK?

BMJ 2022; 377 doi: (Published 27 June 2022) Cite this as: BMJ 2022;377:o1578
  1. Elisabeth Mahase
  1. The BMJ

With reports of poliovirus in the UK, Elisabeth Mahase outlines what we know so far

What have they found?

Vaccine derived poliovirus was detected in several sewage samples from the London Beckton Sewage Treatment Works between February and May 2022. The live attenuated (weakened) oral polio vaccine, which can cause the vaccinated person to shed traces of poliovirus in their faeces, has not been used in the UK since 2004.1 Therefore, the UK Health Security Agency has said the virus was likely to have been imported by someone who was recently vaccinated overseas.

As of 27 June the HSA said that no associated cases of paralytic polio had been detected in the UK and the risk to the public was currently low. The UK was declared polio free in 2003, with the last case of wild polio contracted in the country in 1984.

What do we know about polio?

Wild poliovirus has three types. While type 2 and type 3 have been declared eradicated, type 1 continues to circulate in some parts of the world.2 Polio is an acute illness that can occur after a person is infected by one of the polioviruses, which invades the body through the gastrointestinal tract. It then replicates in the gut and can spread to the central nervous …

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