INDIA TO PUSH FOR POLIO ERADICATION
AUTHORITIES IN INDIA WORRIED AFTER NEW CASES IN 2006 JUMP TO 297 FROM 66 IN ALL OF 2005
13 October 2006
In late September, India announced it was planning an aggressive campaign to halt the spread of polio, a paralyzing disease nearly eradicated worldwide a decade ago. The plans came after official reports showed 5 times as many new cases in the first 9 months of 2006 as in all of 2005, with about 90% of the 297 new cases concentrated in Uttar Pradesh state alone.
The World Heath Organization (WHO) has warned that failure to eradicate the virus in Nigeria, India, Afghanistan and Pakistan, where it remains endemic, could lead to its broader resurgence. The disease targets primarily young people and can be deadly or have prolonged effects such as paralysis. US pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt used a wheelchair due to the long-term effects of polio.
Muslim pilgrims traveling to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj will now be required to receive polio immunizations, if they come from Nigeria, India, Afghanistan or Pakistan, where the disease is endemic. These four countries were the last places where only a few hundred cases of the disease remained, as recently as a few years ago.
But three main factors appear to have caused the possible resurgence of the virus: 1) in northern Nigeria, where pro-sharia Muslim clerics began spreading the false rumor that vaccinations were a conspiracy to sterilize Muslim women, immunization has dropped off and the disease has gained a foothold; 2) a new strain originating in Uttar Pradesh, India, has spread to Nepal and Bangladesh, but has also been recorded in Congo, Namibia and Angola; 3) the news that polio was virtually eradicated may have caused interest in achieving that goal to wane, diverting resources to other regional and global public health issues.
The WHO has requested a meeting with India's health minister, Anbumani Ramadoss, to discuss the problem of polio in Uttar Pradesh and efforts to contain and combat the virus. It was Ramadoss who announced India's plans for a multi-front effort to contain the spread of polio, and he has said he may be traveling to Geneva, Switzerland, to meet with the WHO, but no date has so far been set. [s]
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MALARIA PANDEMIC KILLS 2 MILLION PER YEAR
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NIGERIA STRUGGLES WITH RESURGENCE OF POLIO
Nigeria is facing a new polio eradication campaign. Almost half the world's polio cases are in Nigeria. Neighboring countries are beginning campaigns to keep the disease from spreading. The World Health Organization cautions that failure will permit the disease to spread to Nigeria's neighbors, undermining decades' worth of public health efforts. [Full Story]