LONDON, England: Local health authorities announced this week that following the discovery of the polio virus in the city's sewage system, children living in London will be offered an extra dose of the polio vaccine.
A polio vaccine booster dose will be offered to all children between the ages of 1 and 9 in all London boroughs, said the UK Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization.
According to the most recent data from the UK Office for National Statistics, some 1 million children in that age group live in the London region.
In a statement, the UK Health Security Agency said, "This will ensure a high level of protection from paralysis and help reduce further spread of the virus."
The Health Security Agency said that between February and July, 116 incidents of polio virus were identified in 19 sewage samples collected in London, adding that while most of the samples contained a vaccine-like virus, some showed "sufficient mutations to be classified as vaccine derived poliovirus."
Dr. Vanessa Saliba, consultant epidemiologist at the Health Security Agency, noted, "No cases of polio have been reported and for the majority of the population, who are fully vaccinated, the risk is low. But we know the areas in London where the polio virus is being transmitted have some of the lowest vaccination rates."
Polio is caused by the polio virus. Some 1 in 4 infected people develop flu-like symptoms, including sore throat, fever, fatigue, nausea, headache and stomach pain, while 1 in 200 will develop more serious symptoms, according to the U.S. Centers for the Disease Control and Prevention.
There is no cure for the disease and any paralysis is permanent.
According to the Health SecurityAgency's statement, the last case of polio in the UK was in 1984.
"Decades ago, before we introduced the polio vaccination program, around 8,000 people would develop paralysis every year," Saliba added.
There are three strains of the virus, two of which have been eliminated in the world, according to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, a World Health Organization program. One type of wild polio virus still circulates in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Transmission can also occur when not enough children are vaccinated in an area.
Last month, a person from Rockland County, New York, was diagnosed with polio, the first case identified in the United States in nearly a decade. The unvaccinated young adult began experiencing weakness and paralysis, county Health Commissioner Dr. Patricia Schnabel Ruppert said at the time.