You may have heard in the news that the Polio virus has been detected in London. It appears that the type of polio found is a derivative of the oral polio vaccine that was phased out in the UK in 2004. Whilst there is evidence of some spread between closely-linked individuals in North and East London, the virus has only been detected in sewage samples and no cases of community transmission have been reported.
What is polio and how is it transmitted?
Polio (poliomyelitis) is a serious illness caused by a virus called poliovirus. Polio mainly affects children under 5 years of age. Polio is very infectious. The infection usually spreads from person to person through contact with the faeces of an infected person. If even a tiny amount of stool or droplets from an infected person gets on to another person’s hands, or an object like a toy, which then touches their mouth then they can also become infected. The virus can then travel to the gut (bowel) to cause an infection.
Vaccinations are the best defence against polio
The UK is considered by the World Health Organization to be polio-free, with low-risk for polio transmission due to the high level of vaccine coverage across the population.
The polio vaccination is offered to all children and is part of the 6-in-1 vaccine given in three doses at 8, 12 and 16 weeks old. All three doses are needed to develop a strong immunity to the viruses, including polio, that form part of the vaccine.
It is given again at three years and four months as part of the 4-in-1 pre-school booster, and again at 14 years as part of the 3-in-1 teenage booster. All these vaccine doses need to be given to a person to be fully vaccinated.
If you or your child are not up to date with your polio vaccinations, or you are unsure if you are up to date, please check your Child’s Red Book or contact the surgery to book a vaccination.