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WHO expected to launch 'emergency plan' to eradicate polio

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May 24 2012



The World Health Organization is expected to declare polio a global emergency after outbreaks in countries previously free of the disease.

The WHO wants to boost programmes in Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan, the only countries where the disease is still endemic.

It says tackling polio is "at a tipping point between success and failure".

India, once regarded as one of the most challenging countries, was declared free of the disease in February.

There have been large outbreaks of the virus in Africa, Tajikistan and China has had its first cases for more than a decade.

Members of the WHO, meeting in Geneva, will vote this week on whether to declare polio eradication an "emergency for public health".

The WHO estimates that failure to act could lead to as many as 200,000 paralyzed children a year worldwide within a decade.


Bruce Aylward, head of the WHO's polio eradication campaign, said: "Over the last 24 months on three continents - in Europe, in Africa and in Asia - we have seen horrific explosive outbreaks of the disease that affected adults, and in some cases 50% of them died.

"What it reminded people is that, if eradication fails, we are going to see an huge and vicious upsurge of this disease with consequences that it is very difficult even to foresee right now."

The WHO originally set the year 2000 as its target for polio eradication. Dr Margaret Chan, director-general of the WHO, said the organisation was now working "in emergency mode".

The BBC's Imogen Foulkes in Geneva says the programme has claimed some remarkable successes, most notably India, which was declared polio-free in February.

She says the WHO hopes to shake donor countries out of their complacency and support one last effort at eradication. The WHO believes that with one last push, the disease could be eradicated globally, she says.

It is thought conflict and a lack of trust in vaccinations mean fewer children are being immunized.

Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus. It invades the nervous system, and can cause total paralysis in a matter of hours.

One in 200 infections leads to irreversible paralysis, usually in the legs. Among those paralysed, 5% to 10% die when their breathing muscles become immobilized.



Article credit: BBC News

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Updated 8 Years ago

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