Urgent warning to all parents as health chiefs identify first polio outbreak in decades

PARENTS have been urged to check their children’s medical records after health chiefs in the UK discovered polio.

It is the first time the disease has been found in the country since 1984.

In the UK, polio vaccination is part of the NHS routine children's vaccination schedule


In the UK, polio vaccination is part of the NHS routine children’s vaccination schedulePhoto credit: Getty

Health bosses have said Brits should check their children’s vaccinations are up to date after spotting signs the virus is being transmitted between individuals.

In the UK, polio vaccination is part of the NHS routine children’s vaccination schedule.

It is given as a vaccination when a child is 8, 12 and 16 weeks old. And two more shots are given at the age of 3 years and 4 months and at the age of 14 years.

However, one in ten children in London by the age of five has not been fully vaccinated against the pathogen.

What is polio? causes and symptoms
First case of polio found in Africa in 5 years, leaving toddler paralyzed

Experts have now discovered the pathogen in the capital’s wastewater samples, which have been available since April – a clear signal for a community outbreak.

dr Vanessa Saliba, Consulting Epidemiologist at UKHSA, said: “Vaccine-derived poliovirus is rare and the risk to the general public is extremely low.

“Vaccine-derived poliovirus has the potential to spread, particularly in communities where vaccine uptake is lower.

“On rare occasions, paralysis can occur in people who are not fully vaccinated. So if you or your child are not up to date on their polio vaccinations, it is important that you contact your GP to catch up, or if you are unsure, check your red book.”

Polio is an infectious disease that can be transmitted from person to person and most commonly affects children under the age of five.

The disease attacks the nervous system and in some extreme cases can lead to paralysis.

It is very contagious and a person can transmit it even if they are not sick.

The last case of polio in Britain was in 1984 and the country was declared polio-free in 2003.

Before a vaccine was introduced in the 1950s, epidemics resulted in thousands of people becoming paralyzed and hundreds of deaths annually.

What Are the Signs of Polio You Need to Know?

The majority of people who contract the poliovirus have no visible symptoms.

About one in four people with poliovirus infection will have flu-like symptoms, which may include:

  • Sore throat
  • Fever
  • fatigue
  • nausea
  • headache
  • stomach pain

Symptoms usually last between two and 10 days before going away on their own.

In very rare cases, polio can cause difficulty using your muscles, usually in your legs.

This is not usually permanent and movement should slowly return over the next few weeks or months.

Experts from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) believe a traveler – likely from Pakistan, Afghanistan or Nigeria – passed the virus in his stool after receiving the oral polio vaccine.

But the bug has now spread to others following the mutation, with the same strain being repeatedly detected in sewage samples since May.

Health bosses have now launched an urgent investigation to locate the source and step up vaccination in affected areas.

Despite clear indications of an outbreak, no cases have become known.

And officials insist the overall risk to the public remains very low.

Jane Clegg, senior nurse at the NHS in London, said: “The majority of Londoners are fully protected against polio and need not take any further action, but the NHS will start reaching out to parents of children under five in London who are at risk of polio -Vaccinations are not up to date to invite them to get protected.

“Meanwhile, parents can also check their child’s vaccination status in their Red Book and people should contact their GP practice to book a vaccination if they or their child are not fully up to date.”

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Sarah Y. Kim

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