Polio: How worried should the public be? Symptoms to spot as virus detected in the UK

Polio virus found in samples from sewage works in London

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Polio was presumed to be something only found in the UK’s past.

However, now it is very much in its present state, health officials are now worried about the wider danger to the public, particularly as there is now local community transmission.

Officials believe the spread started between closely linked individuals in North East London.

Urgent investigations are now being undertaken to track and trace the outbreak before it worsens.

Speaking about the outbreak, Dr Vanessa Saliba of the UKHSA, said: “Vaccine-derived poliovirus has the potential to spread, particularly in communities where vaccine uptake is lower.

“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 population are normally protected by polio vaccinations administered in childhood.

However, Dr Saliba said those in communities with lower vaccine uptake would be at greater risk.

The big question is whether the wider public is at risk.

Dr Saliba said: “Vaccine-derived poliovirus is rare and the risk to the public overall is extremely low.

“Most of the UK population will be protected from vaccination in childhood.”

Dr Saliba added: “We are urgently investigating to better understand the extent of this transmission and the NHS has been asked to swiftly report any suspected cases to the UKHSA, though no cases have been reported or confirmed so far.”

While most people who get polio don’t get symptoms, they can still arise in some cases.

Symptoms are akin to those of a mild case of flu, such as:
• High temperature
• Fatigue
• Headaches
• Vomiting
• Stiff neck
• Muscle pain.

Any symptoms will normally last for up to 10 days say the NHS.

The return of polio is the latest medicinal threat to hit the UK in recent years.

As well as polio, the country has been struggling with multiple waves of COVID-19 and the return of monkeypox.

So far, over 700 people have monkeypox in the UK, a number only set to rise.

The UKHSA has advised those with the virus to self-isolate for three weeks.

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