WHO fear polio could 'come back with a vengeance'
Polio outbreaks remain endemic in Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative reports that tackling the
growing worldwide polio epidemic may be addressed immediately after "explosive" outbreaks in countries previously free of the disease. The
group has launched a plan to boost vaccination in Nigeria, Pakistan and
Afghanistan, the only countries where the disease is still endemic.
Experts fear the disease could "come back with a vengeance."
The campaign to eradicate global polio is described as the 'relentless pursuit of the unvaccinated child.'
"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," Bruce Aylward, head of the WHO's polio eradication campaign says.
"What it reminded people is that, if eradication fails, we are going to see and huge and vicious upsurge of this disease with consequences that it is very difficult even to foresee right now."
Aylward says the initiative was "now on an emergency footing" which would result in a "big shift" in the way the virus is approached. The campaign is described as the "relentless pursuit of the unvaccinated child."
Pakistan remains the key battleground in the global fight against polio. Pakistan has the highest number of cases in the world.
Nearly 200 children were paralyzed here in 2011, the worst figures in 15 years. The Pakistani strain of the virus has since crossed borders, causing outbreaks in Afghanistan and China.
The Pakistan government has already declared polio to be a national emergency. A small army of health workers of 88,000 is targeting 33 million children for vaccination.
Officials admit as many as three quarters of a million children still have not been immunized.
Immunization campaigns have been disrupted in recent years from heavy flooding and military campaigns against the Taliban.
There has been the expected opposition from some powerful clerics. Damage has been wrought by the fake CIA vaccination campaign which helped to locate Osama Bin Laden in the Pakistani city of Abbotabad.
Aylward cautions that there was a $950 million shortfall in funding and admitted they had been forced into "cutting corners" with vaccination campaigns being stopped in some countries.
On a more positive side, India, once regarded as one of the most challenging countries, was declared free of the disease in February.
"We know polio can be eradicated, and our success in India proves it," Kalyan Banerjee, the president of Rotary International says.
"It is now a question of political and societal will.
"Do we choose to deliver a polio-free world to future generations, or do we choose to allow 55 cases this year to turn into 200,000 children paralyzed for life, every single year?"
© 2012, Catholic Online. Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Polio, vaccinations, outbreaks, Pakistan, India
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