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

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 »

CABS1

Heaving, hurling taxi patrons will now be charged a $75 cleanup fine

THE CANADIAN PRESS If you’re feeling queasy, step away from the cab. That’s the advice from taxi drivers across British Columbia after the province’s Passenger…
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 »

LOCAL NEWS

CABS1

Heaving, hurling taxi patrons will now be charged a $75 cleanup fine

THE CANADIAN PRESS If you’re feeling queasy, step away from the cab. That’s the advice from taxi drivers across British Columbia after the province’s Passenger…
Continue Reading »

Homicide investigators are on scene at a stabbing in Surrey.

Homicide investigators on scene of stabbing in Surrey

VANCOUVER DESI A man is dead following an early morning stabbing in Surrey. Surrey RCMP were called to the 10600-block 135A Street in Whalley shortly…
Continue Reading »

Vancouver restaurateur Vikram Vij poses with Barinder Rasode at his new South Surrey restaurant My Shanti at an event Thursday night. Submitted photo.

Will Vikram Vij’s ‘support’ be enough to push Barinder Rasode into Surrey mayoralty ring?

LARISSA CAHUTE VANCOUVER DESI Still yet to officially announce a bid for mayor this fall, Surrey city councillor Barinder Rasode had an endorsement party of…
Continue Reading »

Don't Miss...

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 »

232-teeth tumour gum

Indian teen boy gets 232 teeth removed from “very rare” tumour in his jaw

VANCOUVER DESI A 17-year-old boy in India underwent a seven-hour long operation on Monday to have a whopping 232 teeth removed from a “very rare”…
Continue Reading »

basketball

Indian minister criticizes ‘no-headgear’ rule after Sikh basketball players told to remove turbans during Asia Cup

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS NEW DELHI — India’s sports minister has criticized the ‘no-headgear’ rule of basketball’s world body FIBA after two Sikh players on the…
Continue Reading »

Greece

Tipsy British tourist asked to leave church after mistaking it for a disco

CEN AGENCY A tipsy British tourist had to be asked to leave a church in Crete where he started dancing after local kids told him…
Continue Reading »

Surrey-weight lifter-Commonwealth Games-Glasgow

Surrey weightlifter Parm Phangura bound for Commonwealth Games

MICHAEL BOOTH SURREY NOW FLEETWOOD — 163+205=368. That stark equation scrawled in the top corner of a chalkboard means little to a casual observer, but…
Continue Reading »


Bollywood Latest

Priyanka Chopra

Priyanka Chopra fought with professional boxers while shooting Mary Kom

IANS Mumbai  – Actress Priyanka Chopra fought with real boxers in Mary Kom, a biopic on the five time World Champion boxer. She says it…
Continue Reading »

Bollywood

Akshay Kumar to host dance reality show Dare 2 Dance

IANS Gurgaon  – Bollywood action hero Akshay Kumar, who has played host of TV adventure reality series Fear Factor: Khatron Ke Khiladi in the past,…
Continue Reading »

INDIA-ARTS-CINEMA-BOLLYWOOD

What stunt scared Jacqueline Fernandez the most while filming Kick?

IANS Mumbai — Superstar Salman Khan has done a lot of action and stunts in Kick and the film’s leading lady Jacqueline Fernandez says that…
Continue Reading »