Report Highlights Spread of Polio in Four Endemic Countries; Official Calls 2008 ‘Difficult’ Year For Eradication Efforts
Polio is spreading quickly in Afghanistan and Pakistan because warfare is a major barrier to eradicating the disease, according to a new report presented at the World Health Assembly on Thursday, Reuters reports. The report highlights the spread of polio in the four countries Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan where it is endemic.
The report emphasized the "fragility of progress" in the polio fight in India where vaccine efforts are being expanded to protect the increasing population of children in slums. In addition, low immunization rates in Nigeria have caused the virus to spread to neighboring countries that had previously eradicated it, the Global Polio Eradication Campaign said.
Last year "was indeed a very difficult year for the eradication programme," Bruce Aylward, the head of Global Polio Eradication Campaign, said, adding that setbacks in endemic and newly-infected places are the result of "a simple failure to reach and vaccinate children."
According to the report, oral polio vaccines will be distributed in 16 countries that have "re-imported" polio since the start of 2008, Reuters reports. Since the middle of last year, a dozen of those countries have reported new cases of paralysis, which shows "that international spread of poliovirus is continuing," the report said. It went on to say that a "deterioration in security" was the cause of "large-scale population movements and outbreaks" in areas that had been free of polio, "particularly in the Punjab province of Pakistan."
Earlier this year, polio was "largely restricted to areas where insecurity hampers supplementary immunisation activities," the report writes (MacInnis, Reuters, 5/21).
IRIN examines polio vaccination efforts in Nigeria and surrounding countries. "The goal is to stop the transmission of the virus in Nigeria," said WHO's Oliver Rosenbauer, adding, "Until that happens, other West African countries will continue to be at risk of re-infection" (IRIN , 5/20).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.