Polio-free India was declared disease free by the news media again today, following a United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) announcement declaring India and the 11 countries of Southeast Asia free of the once pernicious disease. (India was originally declared disease-free on January 13, 2011, three years after the last known case was found there.)
The World Health Organization declares a country to be polio-free when no endemic cases of the disease have been reported over a three-year period. An endemic case of a disease is an instance where a single case can be traced to previous cases indicating a disease vector is present that can transmit the disease from one victim to another. An example of a disease vector is the role mosquitoes play in the transmission of Malaria.
While no endemic cases of the disease have been observed over the past three years in any of the 12 countries declared polio free today, there could still be sporadic cases that might appear spontaneously long after a region has been declared free of the disease. The 11 countries in Southeast Asia now considered to be free of the disease include Bangladesh, Bhutan, South Korea, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and East Timor.
The WHO continues to list three countries with endemic cases of the disease, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria. Numerous instances of violence against polio vaccination workers have been reported in Pakistan, where the Taliban is bitterly opposed to all vaccination because they consider it a Western plot. Similar sentiments exist in both Afghanistan and Nigeria.
Weather appears to play a role in the transmission of polio, with warm, wet weather encouraging new cases of the disease, which does not prosper nearly as much in cooler, drier climates. There are also isolated instances in which the live virus oral vaccine has reportedly caused some vaccinated patients to fall ill with the disease, but the incidence of these outliers is extremely rare with only one out of 750,000 vaccinations resulting in new cases of the disease.
Not everyone agrees the oral live virus vaccine is as safe as proponents claim. There have been numerous reports in the virtual media of up to 49,000 cases of a mild form of the disease that have been attributed to the vaccine in India, but those reports have not been confirmed by reputable case studies. Nevertheless, rumors about the ill-effects of the disease have spread across the border from India to Pakistan, where the Taliban have taken those warnings to heart, attacking, killing and kidnapping Aid workers and the para-military police forces assigned to protect them.
Concerns about the safety and efficacy of vaccines in Pakistan mirrors the concerns of many American families who are choosing not to immunize their children in the belief that the vaccines themselves may be causing conditions such as Autism to increase rapidly.
In the United States, which has been free of disease once known as infantile paralysis since 1979, 23 isolated cases of a mysterious, polio-like disease have been identified in different locations around the state of California in recent weeks. A 24th victim is being treated in California but lives in another state. Investigators are now focusing their research on Enterovirus 68, which has never before been associated with polio-like symptoms, because two of the victims tested positive for that strain.
Investigators looking into the mystery outbreak are being hampered by the fact that the symptoms of paralysis often do not appear until after the viral infection itself has run its course. This leaves no traces of the guilty virus for researchers to identity and cross-match with other victims’ specimens.
While there is no hard science to corroborate that the oral live virus vaccinations specifically cause unexpected consequences, there is hard science suggesting there may be unintended consequences from universal treatment or prevention programs.
The appearance of prevention resistant strains of viruses and bacteria are common. These so-called “super bugs” are probably genetic mutations that are immune to the prevention or treatment regimes employed against them. As a disease eradication program progressives, the weaker, non-immune strains are killed off, leaving the strong, more immune strains free to play havoc in the environment.
This is why antibiotics and anti-viral agents that used to work against common diseases are no longer effective against them. The list of diseases becoming increasingly treatment resistant now includes Anthrax, Gonorrhea, Strep, Staff, Pneumonia, Meningitis, Salmonella, Tuberculosis, and Typhoid. In most of these cases, there are no preventive measures, only treatments and, if the treatments start to fail, pandemics become more likely to occur.
Corn farmers who have been planting a rootworm resistant hybrid seed have been noticing increased crop damage to their crops from an insecticide resistant mutation of the pest. Agricultural scientists, along with epidemiologists, have been warning about the adverse consequences of universal applications of pesticides and genetically modified organisms that have the same pesticidal agents bred into them. Some experts are now recommending that no more than 50 percent of a given area’s corn crops should be planted with the genetically modified grain.
The theory behind restricting the use of rootworm resistant strains of corn is that, by planting non-resistant strains of corn, rootworms that feed on the non-resistant corn will interbreed with the worms that are tolerant of the pesticide infused corn, lowering the resistance of the offspring from such unions to the pesticide agent. Pesticide inoculation programs are virtually identical in their effects to preventive vaccination programs, which kill off the dominant strains of a disease but may leave the resistant strains of the disease to lay dormant, waiting to strike again.
No one is saying so yet, but the widespread use of the vaccines may be leading to the development of a vaccine resistant form of the disease through the same process of selective eradication. India may have been declared free of the dreaded paralysis that comes with the disease, but Pakistan has not, and diseases, like information, do not respect national borders. Until Pakistan is free of this ancient scourge , India is still under polio’s cloud.
By Alan Mm Milner