Polio symptoms, causes and how to check if you’ve had vaccine as national incident declared


People are being warned to make sure they are fully vaccinated as polio has been reported to be spreading in Britain for the first time in decades. The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has repeatedly detected the poliovirus between closely linked individuals and extended families in London’s sewage works.

Health experts are warning the NHS as the discovery has been declared a national incident by the UKHSA. The last community outbreak in Britain was in the 1970s but health officials insist the current risk to the population is low.

The samples were discovered between February and May and have continued to evolve, now being classified as ‘vaccine-derived’ poliovirus type 2 (VDPV2). The risk of transmission throughout the community is currently being established, reports the Mirror .

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Polio is an infectious disease caused by a virus that can spread from person to person and cause paralysis.

Early symptoms of polio in children and adults

According to the NHS, early warning signs may include:

  • at high temperature
  • Extreme tiredness (fatigue)
  • Headaches
  • Being sick (vomiting)
  • A stiff neck
  • muscle pain

How polio is spread

The recent outbreak in London is said to be caused by a person returning to the UK after having the oral polio vaccine. It remains unclear how much the virus has spread, however, it may be confined to a single household or an extended family.

Polio is spread when the stool (poo) of an infected person comes into contact with the mouth of another person, either through contaminated water or through food. Another way of spreading polio is through oral-to-oral transmission by an infected person’s saliva.

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Polio vaccine

The potentially deadly disease can be prevented with a vaccine. “Investigation [is] underway to protect public, who are urged to ensure polio vaccines are up to date, especially parents of young children who may have missed an immunization opportunity,” says the UK Health Security Agency.

“Vaccine-derived poliovirus has the potential to spread, particularly in communities where vaccine uptake is lower,” said Dr Vanessa Saliba, consultant epidemiologist at the UKHSA.

She added: “On rare occasions it can cause paralysis in people who are not fully vaccinated, so if you or your child are not up to date with your polio vaccinations it’s important you contact your GP to catch up, or if unsure check your red book.

“Most of the UK population will be protected from vaccination in childhood, but in some communities with low vaccine coverage, individuals may remain at risk.”

Parents of children who are not up to date with their polio vaccine course are urged to make an appointment with their GP as soon as possible. The UKHSA added that the risk to the wider population is low.

Oral vaccines against polio offered abroad contain an “attenuated” form of the virus – weakened in a laboratory so it cannot cause disease

How to check you’ve had your polio vaccine

This Morning’s Dr Ellie assured parents that if your child has had the full UK schedule of vaccines, they will be immune from polio. “If you are checking your polio vaccinations or your child’s they are rarely called ‘polio’,” she tweeted.

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“They will be labeled: DTaP/IPV or dTaP/IPV or 6 in 1 or 5 in 1 Teenage boosters are known as Td/IPV or 3 in 1 If they’ve had full UK schedule, they are immune.”

How to reduce your risk of polio

Practice safe hand hygiene and food and water precautions during travel to reduce your risk of exposure to the polio virus, advise the experts. As the virus spreads through unsafe food and water, practicing good hygiene including washing your foods is vital.

Children in the UK normally receive polio vaccinations as part of the UK vaccination schedule. For adults and children from 10 years of age, who have not received polio vaccinations in the past, a three-dose course of vaccinations can be provided.

Polio, or poliomyelitis, is a crippling and potentially deadly disease. It is caused by the poliovirus.

The virus spreads from person to person and can invade an infected person’s brain and spinal cord, causing paralysis.

Polio can be prevented with vaccine.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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