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Global Health Emergency Declared as Poliovirus Spreads

Posted by feww on May 5, 2014

EMERGING & RE-EMERGING INFECTIOUS DISEASES
INTERNATIONAL SPREAD OF WILD POLIOVIRUS
GLOBAL HEALTH EMERGENCY
NIGHTMARE SCENARIO 011
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Global Health Emergency Declared as Wild Poliovirus Spreads

The international spread of wild poliovirus in 2014 is a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC),” the Director General of WHO  declared on 5 May 2014, based on the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee’s assessment.

“… the international spread of polio to date in 2014 constitutes an ‘extraordinary event’ and a public health risk to other states for which a co-ordinated international response is essential,” said the WHO’s Emergency Committee.

At end-2013, 60% of polio cases were the result of international spread of wild poliovirus, and there was increasing evidence that adult travellers contributed to this spread. During the 2014 low transmission season there has already been international spread of wild poliovirus from 3 of the 10 States that are currently infected: in central Asia (from Pakistan to Afghanistan), in the Middle East (Syrian Arab Republic to Iraq) and in Central Africa (Cameroon to Equatorial Guinea). A coordinated international response is deemed essential to stop this international spread of wild poliovirus and to prevent new spread with the onset of the high transmission season in May/June 2014; unilateral measures may prove less effective in stopping international spread than a coordinated response. The consequences of further international spread are particularly acute today given the large number of polio-free but conflict-torn and fragile States which have severely compromised routine immunization services and are at high risk of re-infection. Such States would experience extreme difficulty in mounting an effective response were wild poliovirus to be reintroduced. As much international spread occurs across land borders, WHO should continue to facilitate a coordinated regional approach to accelerate interruption of virus transmission in each epidemiologic zone.

States currently exporting wild poliovirus

Pakistan, Cameroon, and the Syrian Arab Republic pose the greatest risk of further wild poliovirus exportations in 2014.

States infected with wild poliovirus but not currently exporting

Afghanistan, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Iraq, Israel, Somalia and particularly Nigeria, given the international spread from that State historically, pose an ongoing risk for new wild poliovirus exportations in 2014.

Global Public Health Emergency

Based on the Committee’s assessment, the Director General of WHO  on 5 May 2014 declared the international spread of wild poliovirus in 2014 a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).”

Scanning electron photomicrograph of polio virions

poliovirus - PHIL_2446_lores-small
The poliovirus lives in the human pharynx and intestinal tract. Poliomyelitis is an acute infection that involves the gastrointestinal tract and, occasionally, the central nervous system. It is acquired by fecal-oral transmission. Source: CDC

What’s Polio

Polio is a crippling and potentially deadly infectious disease caused by a virus that spreads from person to person invading the brain and spinal cord and causing paralysis. Because polio has no cure, vaccination is the best way to protect yourself and the only way to stop the disease from spreading. The spread of polio has never stopped in Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. Poliovirus has been reintroduced and continues to spread in Syria, Cameroon and the Horn of Africa after the spread of the virus was previously stopped.

Emerging and Re-emerging Infectious Diseases

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