Polio Virus

Frequently Asked Questions

What does the recent news story about finding the polio virus in sewage mean?

A very small number of the live polio virus has been found in a sewage treatment work in Beckton. The sewage treatment works serves over 4 million people.

The virus has probably been found because if a person has been vaccinated with a live virus vaccine, the virus can pass through their body and into sewage via their poo for up to 28 days after vaccination.

What is a does it mean for me?

At the moment no one in the wider community is at risk.

Most people in Newham are vaccinated against polio and will have life-long protection against the virus.

If you or your children have not been vaccinated, you should contact your GP to get vaccinated to ensure you are protected.

It is a great time to get caught up on your vaccines ahead of the summer holidays and returning to school in September.

What does ‘live’ virus mean?

‘Live’ virus means that it can infect people who are not vaccinated, and cause symptoms of polio.

What does ‘live’ vaccine mean?

A live vaccine is one that uses a weakened version of virus to trigger the body to develop immunity against the virus.

How many people get polio each year?

Thanks to vaccines, there are no cases of polio in the UK.

Polio is very rare in most parts of the world. It is currently mainly found in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

How do I protect myself against polio?

Vaccination is the best protection about the polio virus as it provides life-long immunity.

It is always good practice to make sure you wash your hands properly after using the toilet and before eating.

How does polio spread?

Polio passes between people when an infected person coughs or sneezes close to them.

It can also be passed when an infected person does not properly wash their hands after going to the toilet. In this scenario, the virus can be passed by food or drink.

What are the symptoms of Polio?

Polio causes a flu-like illness for approximately three weeks.

For roughly 1 in 100 people who are infected it can lead to a very serious illness including paralysis.

Where can I find more information about polio?

NHS Website

NHS travel advice