Dreaded polio virus threatens world population anew
By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
5/8/2014 (2 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
Polio haunted the world in the 1940s and 1950s, when taking a dip into a public swimming pool threatened life and safety. A polio vaccine kept the crippling virus in check - but now polio threatens the world anew. The World Health Organization has now declared the new spread of polio as an international public health emergency.
Many children affected by the polio virus were confined to iron lungs, unable to breathe on their own.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The disease is making deadly inroads in the developing nations of Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Health officials are now calling for a coordinated "international response."
Among the WHO's recommendations is that citizens of affected countries who travel abroad carry a vaccination certificate. The countries of Pakistan, Cameroon and Syria "pose the greatest risk of further wild poliovirus exportations in 2014."
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The WHO recorded 417 cases of polio worldwide for the whole of 2013. For 2014, it had already recorded 68 cases by the end of April, which is up from 24 in the same period last year.
While it can strike anyone, polio mainly affects children less than five years of age.
The virus is transmitted through contaminated food and water, and multiplies in the intestine. Polio can then invade the nervous system, causing paralysis in one out of every 200 infections - and is capable of causing death within hours.
"The conditions for a public health emergency of international concern have been met," Bruce Aylward, WHO Assistant Director General said.
As old as mankind itself, polio became a major public health issue in late Victorian times with major epidemics in both Europe and the United States. Causing spinal and respiratory paralysis, polio can kill. It remains incurable, but vaccines have assisted in its almost total eradication today.
"The international spread of polio to date in 2014 constitutes an 'extraordinary event' and a public health risk to other states for which a coordinated international response is essential," the WHO's International Health Regulations Emergency Committee said in statement.
"If unchecked, this situation could result in failure to eradicate globally one of the world's most serious vaccine preventable diseases."
Polio remains a virulent threat in the nations of Afghanistan, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Iraq, Israel, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia and Syria.
It is only the second time in the WHO's history it has made such a declaration, the first being during the swine flu pandemic of 2009.
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