The Dutch Food Safety and Health Authorities issued a warning (computer translated) against the consumption of raw, improperly cooked shellfish (mainly oysters) harvested by individuals in the eastern part of the Westerschelde river in response to the 45 litres of concentrated live polio virus solution accidentally released into Belgium water sources by Glaxo SmithKline earlier this month.

Public domain image/Daderot
Public domain image/Daderot

The Netherlands National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) said in a release Monday (computer translated) , The risk of infection with the poliovirus is very small. Since its release to the River Avenue, the concentration is diluted so much that the water itself is not a threat. However, shellfish filter water and the amount of virus can be higher than in the shell than in the water. Even then the chance to get infected even very small. But in the Netherlands, we are very cautious when it comes to polio. Along the Westerschelde are a number of municipalities with low vaccine coverage where many children are not protected against diseases like polio . When it comes poliovirus in such a community, there is great likelihood that many people get sick.

Belgium gave no such recommendations as the country’s polio vaccination rates are better than the Netherlands, according to the RIVM.

On 8 September 2014, the Federal Public Service (FPS) Health, Food Chain Safety and Environment in Belgium confirmed that samples of mud and water taken from the Rosieres treatment plant, the Lasne river and the Dyle river all tested negative for the presence of polio virus. For more infectious disease news and information, visit and “like” the Infectious Disease News Facebook page

An assessment by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) notes:

The accidental release of large amounts of live polio virus into the environment represents a risk to public health if susceptible populations are exposed to contaminated water or mud. The contamination of the rivers depends upon the effectiveness of the treatment in the Rosiere treatment plan to prevent viruses from being released. The Lasne and Dyle rivers join the Escaut/Scheldt river which flows in the southwestern part of the Netherlands where various orthodox protestant communities have a lower polio vaccination coverage, before reaching the North Sea.