Europe Sees Risk of Polio Re-Introduction From Israel

Europe is at risk of a re-introduction of polio, more than a decade after the region was declared free of the disease, after the disfiguring virus was found in sewage in Israel, according to a European Union report.

Poliovirus was identified in 91 sewage samples in Israel between February and August, and in the feces of 42 people in the same area, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control wrote in a report today. No cases of polio disease have been reported, the Stockholm-based ECDC said.

Frequent travel between Israel and Europe has created “a likelihood that poliovirus may be imported and re-established” in the European Union and the European Economic Area, the ECDC said. While the risk of infection is “very low” among people who’ve received the oral polio vaccine, it’s high among those who haven’t been vaccinated, according to the report.

“Israel is a popular destination for EU travelers and vice versa,” the ECDC said. “Orthodox religious groups, among whom low vaccination coverage is often reported, are likely to be at increased risk.”

Israeli authorities have acted to prevent the spread of the virus, and European nations should make an effort to identify and target people who aren’t adequately protected by vaccine, the ECDC said.

“If wild-type poliovirus can re-emerge in Israel, with a comparable health-care system and polio vaccination coverage to much of the EU, then we must accept that there is risk that it could re-emerge” in Europe, ECDC Director Marc Sprenger said in a statement.

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