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UK health authorities have said they are urgently investigating a rare polio virus discovery in sewage samples in London, potentially putting Britain’s polio-free status at risk for the first time in almost two decades.

“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,” Dr. Vanessa Saliba, consultant epidemiologist at UKHSA , Said Wednesday.

Polio is a rare virus that can occasionally cause serious illness, such as paralysis, in people who are not fully vaccinated. The disease was previously common in the UK in the 1950s, but the country was declared polio-free in 2003.

Each year, it is usual for one to three “vaccine-like” polio viruses to be detected in Britain’s sewage system.

Scientists say that this suggests there has been some community spread between closely-linked individuals in north and east London.

So far, the virus has only been detected in sewage samples, and no associated cases of paralysis have been reported, according to the UKHSA.

Vaccine coverage for childhood vaccines, in particular, has waned nationally and especially in parts of London over recent years.

“The majority of Londoners are fully protected against Polio and won’t need to take any further action, but the NHS will begin reaching out to parents of children aged under 5 in London who are not up to date with their Polio vaccinations to invite them to get protected,” Jane Clegg, chief nurse for the NHS in London, said.

In 2004, Britain switched from using an oral polio vaccine to an inactivated polio vaccine, which is administered via injection and prevents infection.

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