Discovery of polio virus in London sewers also raises questions for Belgium

Discovery of polio virus in London sewers also raises questions for Belgium
A young two months old baby getting a vaccination against polio. Credit: Belga / Bruno Arnold

Polio has recently been discovered in London's sewers leading British public health authorities to launch a vaccination campaign for children. In Belgium, the findings have prompted an investigation into the country's sewage system to see if the country is at risk, reported De Standaard.

In 2003, the EU and the UK were declared free from polio. Currently, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has not confirmed any infections and the risk remains low. But the agency wants to be cautious and aims to get children between the ages of one and nine to get a vaccine, with a vaccination campaign targeting almost a million children.

The Rega Institute of KU Leaven has carried out tests on the sewage system in Leuven. But the institute has now tested for polio on a weekly basis with the arrival of Ukrainian refugees, given that Ukraine has an on average lower vaccination rate.

The rest of Belgium must wait for the results from Belgium's Health Institute Sciensano, which has samples from all of Belgium's sewage networks. The Ministry of Public Health asked Sciensano to carry out tests some time ago.

The oral polio vaccine is safe and provides high immunity, but sometimes the virus mutates which can cause disease and then spread to areas where people aren't sufficiently protected.

No time to lose

Polio has been eradicated in most parts of the world thanks to many vaccination campaigns. Due to the severity of the disease and low vaccination rates, London has informed the WHO.

In Belgium, some 93.6% of the population have been vaccinated against polio. Most people have been vaccinated and are safe, including children who arrive to the country and who are given a vaccine. But there may be a risk for the unvaccinated, which has made Belgium's health institutes vigilant.

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