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).

Friday, May 13, 2005

Yemen and Indonesia polio cases worry WHO

Yemen and Indonesia polio cases worry WHO

Thursday, May 12, 2005

The spread of polio in Yemen and Indonesia is adding urgency to attempts to contain the disease in countries previously believed to be polio-free, the U.N. health agency said yesterday.

The outbreak has grown to 63 cases in Yemen, and two more cases have been confirmed in Indonesia, bringing the total there to six since May 3, the World Health Organization said.

Six million doses of vaccine are on their way to Yemen for a second round of immunizations, and a vaccination campaign is under way in Indonesia, but experts said they expect several more polio cases to emerge before the outbreaks are contained.

"The more countries that are free of the disease, the greater the risk is that we will have sporadic outbreaks," said Oliver Rosenbauer, the spokesman for the WHO's polio-eradication program.

This happens because polio immunization campaigns often stop once the disease has been beaten. That leaves babies vulnerable to infections brought into the country.

Although the outbreaks in Yemen and Indonesia can be stopped through immunization drives, it could be devastating if the virus were to reach Somalia, where a lack of security would make it difficult to conduct a vaccination campaign, Rosenbauer said.

"We have already seen polio reintroduced in Ethiopia," he said. "If it spreads to Somalia, it will be a problem because it is logistically very, very challenging there."

Yemen and Indonesia are the latest of 16 previously polio-free countries that have reported new cases since 2003 after a vaccine boycott in Nigeria was reported to have caused an outbreak that spread the disease to other countries.

Last year, 1,267 people were infected in the world - 792 of them in Nigeria. The total new cases in 2005 stands at 198, according to WHO, with Nigeria and Yemen listed as the worst-affected countries.

When WHO started its anti-polio campaign in 1988, the worldwide case count was more than 350,000 a year.

Polio comes from dirty water and usually infects young children, attacking the nervous system.