Reading all the latest from Neil Nerva and UKHSA (see Notes below) plus other local commentary you can imagine that I am just appalled at the previous lack of action given that indications are that the polio virus is spreading and mutating. Why Brent Council has not declared a ‘Major Incident’ is totally and utterly beyond my comprehension.
Once again, Brent Council is trying to shut the gate after the horses have bolted. The total combined lack of understanding and action is just appalling.
Perhaps some in-service training for Councillors and Council Officers on the connection between the presence of untreated raw human sewage in waterways and the spread of diseases might be in order?
Cllr Neil Nerva (Cabinet Member for Public Health and Adult Social Care) wrote to all Brent councillors on August 10th attaching the UK Health Security Agency on the health dangers after detection of the pokio virus in waste water in the borough. He stated:
Councillors have a key role to promote vaccination for children aged one to nine.
UK Health Security Agency Press Release
Following the discovery of type 2 vaccine-derived poliovirus in sewage in north and east London, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has advised that a targeted inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) booster dose should be offered to all children between the ages of one and nine in all London boroughs.
This will ensure a high level of protection from paralysis and help reduce further spread of the virus. Nationally the overall risk of paralytic polio is considered low because most people are protected from this by vaccination.
Many countries globally, including the USA and EU countries like Belgium, provide an additional dose of polio-containing vaccine as part of their childhood vaccination schedule. The NHS in London will contact parents when it's their child’s turn to come forward for a booster or catch-up polio dose - parents should take up the offer as soon as possible.
The programme will start with the areas affected, where the poliovirus has been detected and vaccination rates are low. This will be followed by rapid rollout across all boroughs. This booster dose will be in addition to the NHS childhood vaccination catch up campaign across London. It’s important all children aged 1-9, even if up-to-date with their vaccinations, accept this vaccine when offered to further strengthen their protection against the poliovirus.
Following the findings earlier this year of type 2 poliovirus (PV2) collected from the Beckton sewage treatment works, further upstream sampling undertaken by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has now identified at least one positive sample of the poliovirus currently present in parts of several boroughs: Barnet, Brent, Camden, Enfield, Hackney, Haringey, Islington and Waltham Forest.
The sampling has also detected the virus in lower concentrations and frequency in areas adjacent to the Beckton catchment area to the South (immediately below the Thames) and to the east of Beckton. However, it is not clear whether the virus has established itself in these areas or if the detections are due to people from the affected area visiting these neighbouring areas.
The level of poliovirus found and the high genetic diversity among the PV2 isolates suggests that there is some level of virus transmission in these boroughs which may extend to the adjacent areas. This suggests that transmission has gone beyond a close network of a few individuals.
A total of 116 PV2 isolates have been identified in 19 sewage samples collected in London between 8 February and 5 July this year, but most are vaccine-like virus and only a few have sufficient mutations to be classified as vaccine derived poliovirus (VDPV2). VDPV2 is of greater concern as it behaves more like naturally occurring ‘wild’ polio and may, on rare occasions, lead to cases of paralysis in unvaccinated individuals.
UKHSA is working closely with health agencies in New York and Israel alongside the World Health Organisation (WHO) to investigate the links between the poliovirus detected in London and recent polio incidents in these two other countries.
Dr Vanessa Saliba, Consultant Epidemiologist at UKHSA said:
Jane Clegg, Chief Nurse for the NHS in London said:
The UKHSA, working with the MHRA, has already increased sewage surveillance to assess the extent of spread of the virus and are currently sampling eight further sites across London. A further 15 sites in London will start sewage sampling in mid-August, and 10 -15 sites will be stood up nationally to determine if poliovirus is spreading outside of London.
Editor's Note: With primary schools closed for the summer holiday the usual method of communication with parents of young children is unavailable. Brent Council should be seeking imaginative ways of communicating the urgent information about the need for parents to take advantage of the vaccination offerfor their children (aged 1-9. Councillors could be doing that for their wards via social media, Facebook sites and Next Door as well as personal contact.