Children play soccer on the street decorated with graffiti in reference to the 2014 World Cup in Sao Paulo.REUTERS/Nacho Doce
The World Health Organization has found traces of the polio virus found in sewage samples near Sao Paulo, Brazil, one of the venues for the current World Cup soccer tournament. However, no human cases of the disease has been reported so far, officials said on Monday.
The virus discovered in Sao Paulo sewage collected in March at Viracopos International Airport, and reported by Brazilian health authorities last week, is a close match with a recent strain isolated in a case in Equatorial Guinea, the WHO said.
“Virus has been detected in the sewage only … To date no case of paralytic polio has been reported,” it said in a statement.
Polio invades the nervous system and can cause irreversible paralysis within hours. The virus lives in an infected person’s throat and intestines, and it spreads through contact with feces or fluids of someone who’s infected. There is no cure for the disease but it can be prevented by immunization.
Brazil’s last national immunization campaign was conducted a year ago and coverage in Sao Paulo state has been higher than 95 percent, the WHO said, adding: “The high immunity appears to have prevented transmission.”
The United Nations agency said it assessed the risk of further international spread of polio virus from Brazil as “very low”, and from Equatorial Guinea as “high”.
Brazil has been polio-free since 1989 and the Americas region was declared free of wild polio transmission in 1991, according to the WHO, which is spearheading a global campaign to eradicate polio.
Reuters contributed to this report.