September 22, 2014
WHO issues an alert over spread of polio
The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued an alert concerning the international spread of wild poliovirus -that causes poliomyelitis- after detecting cases in over twelve countries in the last six months.
WHO General Director Margaret Chan declared the state of emergency, considering the spread of the virus a public health risk.
“If unchecked, this situation could result in failure to eradicate globally one of the world’s most serious vaccine preventable diseases,” reads a statement released today by the organization. “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 Essentials”.
Afghanistan, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Iraq, Israel, Somalia and particularly Nigeria have been labeled as infected states. But particularly Pakistan, Cameroon, and the Syrian Arab Republic are the countries that pose the greatest risk of further wild poliovirus exportations in 2014.
One of the main concerns for the experts is that there has been international spread of poliovirus during what is usually the low transmission season –from January to April-
“A coordinated international response is deemed essential to stop this international spread of wild poliovirus and to prevent new spread with the onset of the high transmission season in May/June 2014,” the statement reads.
Poliomyelitis (polio) is a highly infectious viral disease, which mainly affects young children. The virus is transmitted through contaminated food and water, and multiplies in the intestine, from where it can invade the nervous system.
Initial symptoms include fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, stiffness in the neck, and pain in the limbs. In a small proportion of cases, the disease causes paralysis, which is often permanent. Polio can only be prevented by immunization.