World Health Organization: Spread of polio is an international public health emergency

Published: May 5, 2014

In this file photo dated Monday Nov. 25, 2013, a Pakistani child is vaccinated against polio by a health worker in Islamabad, Pakistan, Monday, Nov. 25, 2013. AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen, FILE

MARIA CHENG
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

LONDON — Raising a worldwide alarm, the World Health Organization announced Monday that spread of polio is an international public health emergency that could grow in the next few months and unravel the nearly three-decade effort to eradicate the crippling disease.

The agency described current polio outbreaks in Asia, Africa and the Middle East as an “extraordinary event” that required a co-ordinated international response. It was the first-ever international alert on polio.

“Until it is eradicated, polio will continue to spread internationally, find and paralyze susceptible kids,” Dr. Bruce Aylward, who leads WHO’s polio efforts, said during a press briefing.

Polio usually strikes children under five and is most often spread via infected water. There is no specific cure, but several vaccines exist.

Experts are particularly concerned that the virus continues to pop up in countries that were previously free of the disease, such as Syria, Somalia and Iraq — where civil war or unrest complicates efforts to contain the virus. That spread has happened during the traditionally low season for polio spreading, leaving experts worried that cases could spike in the coming months.

Last week, WHO convened an emergency committee to decide whether the current polio outbreaks — in at least 10 countries in Asia, the Middle East and Africa — merit the declaration of an international health emergency.

Monday’s decision means numerous measures will be adopted, including requiring people from countries exporting polio cases to have a certificate of polio vaccination before being able to travel internationally. Those measures will be reviewed in three months, WHO said.

At the end of April, there were 68 confirmed polio cases, compared with just 24 at the same time last year. In 2013, polio reappeared in Syria, sparking fears the civil unrest there could ignite a wider outbreak across the region. The virus has also been identified in the sewage system in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, although no cases have been spotted.

In February, WHO found that polio had also returned to Iraq. It is already circulating in eight other countries: Pakistan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, Somalia and Kenya.

An independent monitoring board set up by WHO to assess progress in eradicating polio has described the problems as “unprecedented” and called the situation in Pakistan “a powder keg.” Dozens of Pakistani polio workers have been killed in the last two years and the vast majority of new cases are in Pakistan. There is some distrust of polio vaccinations in Pakistan since American forces located Osama bin Laden there using information gained in part under the guise of polio vaccinations.

Officials also worry countries torn by conflict, such as Ukraine, Sudan and the Central African Republic, are rife for polio reinfection.

Some critics say it may even be time to accept that polio may not be eradicated, since the deadline to wipe out the disease has already been missed several times. The ongoing effort costs about $1 billion a year.

“For the past two years, problems have steadily, and now rapidly mounted,” said Dr. Donald A. Henderson, in an email. Henderson led WHO’s initiative to get rid of smallpox, the only disease ever to have been eradicated. “It is becoming apparent that there are too many problems (for the polio eradication effort) to overcome, however many resources are assigned.”

A polio-affected boy Manish, 8, learns to walk with his orthoses after a surgery at a physical rehabilitation center in New Delhi, India Thursday, March 27, 2014. AP Photo /Manish Swarup

But Aylward said WHO and its partners aren’t yet considering pushing back their latest deadline — by 2018 — to eradicate polio.

Still, the independent board monitoring the progress being made on polio is not so convinced and has called for the program to be completely overhauled.

“Few involved in (polio eradication) can give a clear account of how decisions are made,” concluded a recent report by the group. “If a billion-dollar global business missed its major goal several times, it would be inconceivable that it would not revisit and revise its organizational and decision-making structure.”

10:59ET 05-05-14

[+]

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,



Readers Comments (0)

Comments are closed.

Featured

asdlkfjdal

‘I don’t get turned down by girls:’ Calgary man jailed after stalking university classmate

DARYL SLADE CALGARY HERALD A man who became infatuated with a woman in his university class last year then repeatedly stalked her has been jailed….
Continue Reading »

U.S. Republican lawmaker Curt Clawson. Submitted photo/Twitter.

Republican lawmaker apologizes for mistaking U.S. officials as Indian at congressional hearing

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS WASHINGTON — A freshman Republican lawmaker has apologized for mistaking two senior U.S. government officials as Indian when they testified at a…
Continue Reading »

File photo: A Sierra Leone kabaddi player (R) is tackled by his British opponent during the 4th World Cup Kabaddi Punjab 2013 tournament at a stadium in Chohla Sahib (Tarn Taran), about 55 kms from Amritsar on December 2, 2013. NARINDER NANU/AFP/Getty Images

India’s Pro Kabaddi League signs Canadian TV deal

PATRICK JOHNSTON VANCOUVER DESI Canada’s largest South Asian broadcaster, Asian Television Network (ATN), has signed on with India’s Pro-Kabaddi League. The eight-team league launched on…
Continue Reading »

LOCAL NEWS

asdlkfjdal

‘I don’t get turned down by girls:’ Calgary man jailed after stalking university classmate

DARYL SLADE CALGARY HERALD A man who became infatuated with a woman in his university class last year then repeatedly stalked her has been jailed….
Continue Reading »

File photo: A Sierra Leone kabaddi player (R) is tackled by his British opponent during the 4th World Cup Kabaddi Punjab 2013 tournament at a stadium in Chohla Sahib (Tarn Taran), about 55 kms from Amritsar on December 2, 2013. NARINDER NANU/AFP/Getty Images

India’s Pro Kabaddi League signs Canadian TV deal

PATRICK JOHNSTON VANCOUVER DESI Canada’s largest South Asian broadcaster, Asian Television Network (ATN), has signed on with India’s Pro-Kabaddi League. The eight-team league launched on…
Continue Reading »

Today in History – Aug. 7

Advance THE CANADIAN PRESS Today in History for Aug. 7: On this date: In AD 117, Roman emperor Marcus Trajan died at age 65. His…
Continue Reading »

Don't Miss...

india flag2

Sporting fans disappointed as Indian flag depicted upside down in Commonwealth Games promotional video

VANCOUVER DESI India is already making headlines as the Commonwealth Games officially kick off in Glasgow – but not for sporting-related reasons. In an official…
Continue Reading »

INDIA_RAPE_PROTEST_217126232

Angry villagers mob alleged suspects after another girl found hanging from tree in India

KOUSHIK DUTTA HINDUSTAN TIMES A 7-year-old girl was found raped, murdered and hanging from a tree in West Bengal on Thursday, resurfacing horrific memories from…
Continue Reading »

525020624_213567324

Indian baby whose head swelled to three times its size smiling and laughing a year later (w/ photos)

VANCOUVER DESI A three-year-old girl in New Delhi who was given little chance of survival after her head swelled to three times its normal size…
Continue Reading »

An Indian private tutor was caught on CCTV camera brutally beating a child. YouTube screenshot

Private tutor who mercilessly beat child finally arrested in Kolkata

IANS Kolkata  – Private tutor Pooja Singh, who was caught on video brutally thrashing a three-and-a-half-year-old child in Kolkata, was finally arrested Friday, police said….
Continue Reading »

child abuse

Indian kidnappers agree to handover boy to parents on condition of swapping him for his sister

CEN AGENCY In a bizarre demand, parents of an Indian boy who has been kidnapped, were told that they could have youngster back if they…
Continue Reading »


Bollywood Latest

Indian Bollywood Hindi film director Mahesh Bhatt reads during the launch of the book 'Aaliya' in Mumbai on December 5, 2013. STRDEL/AFP/Getty Images

Miffed over fake Facebook account, Mahesh Bhatt heads to police

IANS Mumbai — Filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt has warned his fans against a fake Facebook account created under his name and says that he will approach…
Continue Reading »

1KUMAR

Akshay Kumar performance to kick off kabaddi league in London

IANS New Delhi  – Bollywood action star Akshay Kumar will perform on the inaugural day of the Wave World Kabaddi League (WWKL), starting Aug 9…
Continue Reading »

Indian Bollywood actors Jacqueline Fernandez (L) and Salman Khan pose for a photograph during a promotional event for the forthcoming Hindi film Kick, produced and directed by Sajid Nadiadwala, in Mumbai on late June 15, 2014. STRDEL/AFP/Getty Images

Salman Khan’s Eid luck works in favour of Kick release

IANS Mumbai — If you go by the box office collection of Salman Khan’s Kick, you’d agree that the superstar – whose Eid releases like…
Continue Reading »