Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Friday, May 30, 2014

Global Health Alert

"This is yet another disease that we thought was gone away, and it's back."
"If you are travelling with a child who is not vaccinated with polio, and you go to a region where this stuff is spreading, that child is at risk. I think that is the most important message."
"Often we find the unvaccinated communities tend to congregate together."
Dr. Kumanan Wilson, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute
Administration of the polio inoculation, including by Salk himself, in 1957 at the University of Pittsburgh where he and his team had developed the vaccine

Poliomyelitis has re-surged, thanks in great part to military conflicts, from Sudan to Pakistan. Where a double threat exists; in a theatre of conflict it becomes exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, for humanitarian aid workers to travel for the purpose of inoculating vulnerable children. Perhaps even more pernicious is the fact that Islamist fanatics view that anything that emanates from Western medical or scientific knowledge has an ulterior motive, and is to be rejected.

The hill tribes of Pakistan with their fundamentalist Islamist culture impose upon the countless people living in their tribal areas the requirement to refuse having their children inoculated against polio, leaving them vulnerable to the predations of the disease. Volunteer health care workers who travel to the areas under military guard, are threatened. Some, along with their guards, are slaughtered by the Pakistani Taliban.

Islamabad, Pakistan -- An official in the Ministry of NHSRC who requested anonymity said it will be mandatory from June 1 for people of all ages to receive polio drops and produce a certificate before travelling out of the country. PHOTO: ONLINE 

The World Health Organization felt it was almost time to celebrate the eradication of the polio threat. Instead, now they view the tragedy of a renewed viral transmission which has spread to Syria, Iraq, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Israel and Somalia in a scant six months' time, threatening to reverse a decades-long effort at total eradication.

The Bedouin city of Rahat, southern Israel, where polio was detected in May 2013 in samples from sewage water. (photo credit: Yossi Zamir/Flash 90)
The Bedouin city of Rahat, southern Israel, where polio was detected in May 2013 in samples from sewage water. (photo credit: Yossi Zamir/Flash 90)

It is present and thriving in Pakistan, Cameroon and Syria, and from there readily exported to other countries. People living in first world countries deciding to return briefly to their countries of origin who haven't bothered having their children vaccinated because it seemed to them there was no need to do so, are exposing them in their travels, to life-threatening disease transmission.

The WHO has declared polio now represents a full-blown "public health emergency of international concern". That unusual designation represents the second time only that the UN agency has declared such a health threat to children. In 2009, the H1N1 flu pandemic merited the first such alarm. The Public Health Agency of Canada advises people travelling to affected regions and countries to ensure they have been vaccinated.

The number of cases of polio had seen a record low of 223 globally by 2012, due to a concentrated effort by the World Health Organization and its national health partners to eradicate the disease. That number, however, doubled in incidence last year, and the cases are now proliferating, during what the WHO says generally represents polio's "low season" of incidence.

Left unchecked the disease "could result in failure to eradicate globally one of the world's most serious, vaccine-preventable diseases", concerning Dr. Bruce Aylward, a Canadian who is the WHO's assistant director general for polio, emergencies and country collaboration. WHO director general Margaret Chan has urged Pakistan, Cameroon and Syria to declare public health emergencies, and to ensure that travellers are vaccinated and have the documentation to prove it.

Poliomyelitis can damage nerves and cause partial and sometimes fatal paralysis. It was a frightening scourge in developed countries of the world sixty years ago. While immunization can prevent infection, there is no cure for polio. Once infected, people can carry the virus, seemingly dormant, with no obvious symptoms, but with the capacity of unknowingly infecting hundreds of others they come in contact with.

DIMAS ARDIAN / GETTY IMAGES  A child receives a polio immunization in a Jakarta clinic. Indonesia this week launched a quick vaccination program, targeting some 6.4 million children for immunization over a two-day period in the hope of stemming a polio outbreak 
A well-known humanitarian eradication campaign supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Rotary International had succeeded in reducing the incidence of polio to three countries of the world -- Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria -- and then began its spread, in the last half-year.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home

()() Follow @rheytah Tweet