Polio virus in UK, experts say risk is low

Poliomyelitis virus vaccine with stethoscope and syringe at the background

Poliomyelitis virus vaccine with stethoscope and syringe at the background

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The virus that causes Polio has been found in sewage samples in the United Kingdom.

According to several reports, including the BBC, the United Kingdom Health Security Agency analyzed sewage samples over a four-month period from a facility that serves north and east London. 

A national incident (somewhat similar to a state of emergency in the U.S.) has been issued by the U.K. Health Security Agency. 

The Agency says the discovered virus is vaccine-derived which means those who are up to date on their immunizations are at a very low risk. But officials are encouraging people, and especially those with children, to get vaccinated if they haven't been already. 

"Vaccine-derived poliovirus has the potential to spread, particularly in communities where vaccine uptake is lower," Dr. Vanessa Saliba, a U.K. Health Security Agency consultant, said in a statement. "On rare occasions it can cause paralysis in people who are not fully vaccinated."

A series of videos released by the U.K. Health Security Agency on social media are geared to informing the public on the virus and what to do.

Dr. Mark Hamed, the medical for eight counties in Michigan, calls the polio detection "concerning." 

The Mayo Clinic defines polio as "a contagious viral illness that in its most severe form causes nerve injury leading to paralysis, difficulty breathing and sometimes death."

The last polio case in the U.S. was 1979. The U.K. has been considered polio-free since 2003.