WHO says spread of polio now a global emergency

By Kyle Johnson,

The World Health Organization announced on Monday that the spread of polio worldwide has become an "extraordinary event" and measures needed to be undertaken to prevent even more spreading.

The international health body released a press statement that said cases have increased worldwide, with Pakistan, Cameroon and the Syrian Arab Republic being the three areas deemed the most worrisome. WHO suggests it is time to declare that the spread of wild poliovirus is a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

The organization suggested that the three countries most affected by the spread needed to implement measures to prevent transmission of polio beyond their geographical borders by declaring a national public health emergency and that those planning to travel outside the country be given the vaccine long before their intended travel date.

WHO says that about 60 percent of the polio cases by the end of 2013 were spread as a result of traveling adults. The hope is that if the countries affected implement suggested measures fast enough, then polio might not become an even bigger problem during the high transmission season in May and June.

While the three aforementioned countries are already known to be spreading the disease, there are other seven countries currently at risk for exporting the wild poliovirus but aren't actively doing so. The countries where cases have been discovered domestically include Afghanistan, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Iraq, Israel, Somalia and Nigeria. WHO suggest they follow many of the same guidelines as the three high-risk countries.

WHO notes in the release that these measures must be undertaken, otherwise the serious, yet solvable, disease could begin a serious spread despite being nearly destroyed.

Dr. William Schaffner, chair of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University, spoke with ABC News and suggested that parents make sure to get their children vaccinated for polio as the Montreal Gazette notes polio, which causes partial and possibly fatal paralysis, isn't curable, just preventable.



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