What causes polio? ‘Serious’ virus ‘spreads easily from person to person’

Polio ‘could spread and mutate’ says Angus Dalgleish

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The UK was officially declared polio-free by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2003, however a series of detections in London’s wastewater systems this year has sparked concerns from The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA). Most people who are vaccinated against polio are at very low risk of catching the virus and becoming ill.

However, people who are not up-to-date on their vaccinations are at a heightened risk.

The virus is also particularly dangerous to children under the age of five who have not received a vaccine.

How is polio spread?

Polio is caused by a virus that spreads easily from person to person.

The NHS states: “It usually spreads through contact with the poo of an infected person.

For example, from not washing your hands properly and putting them in your mouth, or from contaminated food or water.”

Polio may also be spread through coughs or sneezes although this is much less common.

To prevent this type of spread, you should be sure to wash your hands properly and cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.

The NHS said: “Your chance of getting polio in the UK is extremely low.

“This is because most people are fully vaccinated. Polio was eradicated in Europe in 2003.”

There are some countries where there is a higher risk of polio spread, and those travelling to them should make sure their vaccines are up to date before jetting off.

The NHS added: “If you’re not vaccinated, there is also a very small risk of getting it through contact with a person bringing the polio virus from these countries when they return to the UK.”

Currently, there are no treatments for polio, so prevention is the absolute best way to stay safe from the virus.

How can I prevent polio?

The main way to prevent polio is by making sure you and your children have been vaccinated.

The polio vaccine is part of the NHS routine childhood vaccination schedule.

The polio vaccine is given to children at:

  • Eight, 12 and 16 weeks old as part of the six-in-one vaccine
  • Three years, four months old as part of the four-in-one (DTaP/IPV) pre-school booster
  • 14 years old as part of the three-in-one (Td/IPV) teenage booster

You must have received all five of these vaccines in order to be considered fully vaccinated against the virus.

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How can I find out if I have been vaccinated?

If you are unsure about whether or not you have been vaccinated against polio, your GP surgery will hold a personal medical record for you.

They can check yours as well as your children’s. For children and babies, you can also check their personal child health record (red book).

People who are not up to date can book an appointment with their GP surgery to get vaccinated free on the NHS.

The NHS added: “You can have a polio vaccination at any point if you’ve never had one before, even if you’re not travelling to a country with a risk of getting polio.

“You should also get vaccinated even if you’ve had polio before as it protects against different types of polio.”

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