WHO sounds alarm on spread of polio

Tuesday, May 6, 2014
By Paul Martin

By Ashley Hayes
CNN.com
Mon May 5, 2014

The spread of polio constitutes an international public health emergency, the World Health Organization declared Monday.

“If unchecked, this situation could result in failure to eradicate globally one of the world’s most serious vaccine preventable diseases,” the WHO said in a statement.

At the end of 2013, 60% of polio cases resulted from the international spread of the virus, and “there was increasing evidence that adult travelers contributed to the spread,” according to the statement.

Polio mainly affects children under the age of 5, according to the WHO. One in 200 infections leads to irreversible paralysis; 5 to 10% of patients die when their breathing muscles become immobilized. It can only be prevented by vaccination.

Of the 10 countries currently infected with polio, three — Pakistan, Syria and Cameroon — have allowed the virus to spread internationally, according to an emergency committee convened by the organization, which met late last month.

Polio has spread from Pakistan to Afghanistan, from Syria to Iraq and from Cameroon to Equatorial Guinea, according to the WHO.

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