Confessions of a Quackbuster

This blog deals with healthcare consumer protection, and is therefore about quackery, healthfraud, chiropractic, and other forms of so-Called "Alternative" Medicine (sCAM).

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Yemen battles polio -- again

Yemen battles polio -- again

October 5, 2005

BY PAUL GARWOOD

AZ ZUHRAH, Yemen -- Ahmed Ali Taher laid his wailing granddaughter in the shade of a barn, held out her limp legs and pleaded for a miracle.

In this dirt-poor region along the Red Sea, 1-year-old Ismaa is one of hundreds of Yemeni children struck down this year by polio -- four years after the country thought it had beaten the disease forever.

''We've had Rift Valley Fever, dengue fever and malaria. But polio is the worst thing to ever hit our village,'' said Taher. ''Some might have died from the others, but then their suffering is over. Polio leaves children paralyzed like this, with no hope.''

Yemen got rid of polio once -- for a period of four years after the last case was reported in 2001. But since February, more than 470 Yemeni children have been hit with the disease, more than one-third of the total 1,273 cases detected worldwide this year.

The Yemen cases all stem from an outbreak in Nigeria two years ago, which occurred after Islamic clerics urged parents to boycott the vaccine for fear it was part of an American anti-Muslim plot. The polio that then erupted in Nigeria spread first to Chad, then to nearby Sudan -- and then across the Red Sea into Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

''The Islamic world took a real beating because of what the clerics did in northern Nigeria,'' said Bruce Aylward, coordinator of the World Health Organization's Global Polio Eradication Program. But, he added: ''Islamic countries should be praised for doing so much to bring the spread of polio back under control.'' Intense international efforts are under way.

In Yemen, health officials backed by WHO and UNICEF recently held the fifth nationwide vaccination round this year. A total of about 3.8 million children under age 5 received two drops of vaccine each.

The number of new cases has plummeted, with the last Yemeni child testing positive Aug. 11. Experts predict polio could be wiped out here by later this year.

AP




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