Written by News 1st
06 May, 2014 | 7:58 am
The spread of polio constitutes an international public health emergency, the World Health Organization declared Monday.
“If unchecked, this situation could result in failure to eradicate globally, one of the world’s most serious vaccine preventable diseases,” the WHO said in a statement.
At the end of 2013, 60% of polio cases resulted from the international spread of the virus, and “there was increasing evidence that adult travellers contributed to the spread,” according to the statement.
Polio mainly affects children under the age of 5, according to the WHO. One in 200 infections leads to irreversible paralysis; 5 to 10% of patients die when their breathing muscles become immobilized. It can only be prevented by vaccination.
Of the ten countries currently infected with polio, three – Pakistan, Syria and Cameroon – have allowed the virus to spread internationally, according to an emergency committee convened by the organisation, which met late last month.
Polio has spread from Pakistan to Afghanistan, from Syria to Iraq and from Cameroon to Equatorial Guinea, according to the WHO.
The concern is that the spread comes during the low transmission season for polio, typically January through April, said WHO spokeswoman Christine Feig. This is a “red flag,” she said, as “it has been years” since the virus was spread to three countries during low season.
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