Polio Outbreak Called ‘International Emergency’ By WHO

Tara Dodrill - Author

May 5 2014, Updated 12:13 p.m. ET

The polio outbreak has now been deemed an “international emergency” by the World Health Organization. The spread of polio is expected to increase over the course of the next several months. The large number of new cases of the crippling disease threatens to destroy a 30-yar effort to eradicate the condition.

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The WHO is reporting that the polio outbreak has now spread across at least 10 countries in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. The World Health Organization is calling the epidemic an “extraordinary event” that requires a coordinated and international response. According to the health agency, Syria, Cameroon, and Pakistan have allowed polio to spread beyond their respective borders. The WHO is urging government leaders in those countries to mandate that citizens garner a polio vaccination certificate before traveling abroad.

WHO Dr. Bruce Aylward said, “Until it is eradicated, polio will continue to spread internationally, find and paralyze susceptible kids.” Critics of the polio pandemic, possibly epidemic, warning contend that the WHO announcement will not make much of a difference. Those who opposed the international emergency directive reportedly feel that limitations faced by governments in the impacted areas will be able to do little to contain the spread of the disease.

Dr. Donald A. Henderson said, “What happens when you continue whipping a horse to go ever faster, no matter how rapidly he is already running?” Henderson once led the WHO initiative to rid the world of smallpox.

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The Monday afternoon polio outbreak announcement is the first time the WHO has issued an international warning about the disease. Although there is no cure for polio, several vaccines exist to help prevent the affliction. Polio typically strikes children under 5 and is spread via infected water.

The current uptick in polio cases are happening during the time of year where a low incidence of spreading occurs. WHO experts are concerned that polio will spread at an increased rate when the weather becomes warmer and more wet in the northern hemisphere during the summer months.

The World Health Organization has dubbed Pakistan a “powder keg” that could spark a widespread polio transmission outbreak. An independent polio monitoring board was set up in several years ago. According to ABC News, “dozens” of polio workers have been killed in Pakistan because militants believed the staffers were nothing more than American spies. Suspicion of medical aid workers reportedly began after the CIA disclosed that a Pakistani doctor helped uncover Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts. The doctor reportedly attempted to get blood samples from bin Laden’s compound under the guise of a hepatitis vaccination program.

At the end of April, there were 68 confirmed polio cases worldwide. At the same time in 2013, there were just 24 cases.

What do you think should be done to thwart the polio outbreak? Should a quarantine be enacted for anyone traveling to the United States from the impacted countries?


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