Aggressive Polio outbreak alarms World Health Organization (WHO), as this viral disease has been radically spreading throughout thee different countries. Although once considered eradicated throughout the world, it now poses a global threat. If left unchecked, crippling effects will be seen throughout the world after nearly a three-decade successful containment.
Pakistan is the key country to watch, warns WHO, as they placed strict travel restrictions on this country due to the rapidly growing outbreak. Currently, Pakistan is just one of three countries where the polio virus is considered to be endemic. The other two countries are Afghanistan and Nigeria. It is strongly suspected that these countries have been exporting the disease through travel. Similar restrictions were placed on Syria, Cameroon, Iraq, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia. In total, the virus has been recognized in 10 countries.
It was the United Nations who exercised their public health arm to enforce these new guidelines in an attempt to thwart the progression of the disease. In conjunction, the WHO is urging the above named States to do the following:
1. Make a declaration at the governmental level that there is a national public health emergency, which needs to interrupt the transmission of the polio virus.
2. Require four weeks to twelve months prior to traveling, individuals be re-inoculated with OPV or IPV to aid as a preventive benefit.
3. If unable to receive OPV or IPV due to travel urgency, then take the vaccine prior to departure; traveler will be required to carry with them an International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis in the specified form in Annex 6 of the International Health Regulations from 2005, which will contain a record of their polio vaccination–serving as proof.
Thus, three criteria need to be met:
1. Six months without having passed without new exportation from those countries posing concerns.
2. Documentation of eradication in all high risk infected areas.
3. Where documentation is absent exportation will be withheld for a minimum of twelve months.
After a State has complied and met the above criteria and it is known that they are no longer exporting the disease, they are to remain under observation as an infected State until such criteria is officially removed, as required by WHO. When such an aggressive outbreak alarms the World Health Organization, it needs to be taken seriously.
Following the crisis talks in Geneva, Bruce Aylward, Assistant Director General WHO, commented that in light of the re-emergence of this international public health emergency, conditions have been met. To leave conditions unchecked could result in failure to eradicate this vaccine preventable disease, which is considered one of the world’s most serious diseases because of its crippling effects and potential for fatality.
Polio, also known as Poliomyelitis, can lead to partial or full paralysis within hours of the invasion of the virus. The virus attacks the nervous system and affects only humans. The viral disease seems to target children under five years of age. Polio virus generally spreads through infected waters and sewage. The virus can live in the gut of a human where it seems to radically multiply in the intestines. That individual may be a carrier of the disease while not having it; yet, the excrement from such individuals contaminates sewage making it possible for the virus to spread. The disease was found to be endemic in 125 countries in 1988. The best preventive measure is the vaccine. Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline are companies which make the vaccine.
This 2014 aggressive outbreak of the virus categorizes this public health risk as an “extraordinary event.” The world is now on red alert and responsible to follow through and hold fast to newly implement guidelines for safety. Due to the severity, it is recommended that all children in the affected areas be vaccinated and even re-vaccinated. Part of the urgency for concern points to the outbreak targeting countries such as Syria, Somalia and Iraq, which had been previously free of the disease. Because of the civil unrest in these areas, it does complicates the ability to address and contain the virus, as stated by David Heymann,who is a professor of infectious disease at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
Cases of poliomyelitis had dropped by 99 percent since 1988, in large part due to the global vaccination campaign backed by Bill and Melinda Gates. The number of reported cases had plummeted from 350,000 in 1988 to 417 in 2013, as reported by WHO data. This year, 74 cases have been verified worldwide. Failure to comply by the newly set guidelines could result in the failure to globally eradicate one of the world’s most serious diseases, which is preventable through vaccine, as stated by WHO. This is only the second time in history, a worldwide declaration has come forth from WHO.
The alarm has been sounded that this aggressive polio outbreak can be stopped with compliance to new emergency guidelines. WHO has implemented restrictions to eradicate the spread of this dreadful virus through vaccinations. Without compliance, the nearly three-decade effort to completely eliminate the disease may unravel.
By Jill Boyer-Adriance
Channel News Asia
New York Times
The News International