Pakistan polio outbreak puts global eradication at risk
Friday, October 18, 2013
A Taliban ban on vaccination is exacerbating a serious polio outbreak in Pakistan, threatening to derail dramatic progress made this year towards wiping out the disease worldwide, health officials say.
Health teams in Pakistan have been attacked repeatedly since the Taliban denounced vaccines as a Western plot to sterilize Muslims and imposed bans on inoculation in June 2012.
In North Waziristan, a region near the Afghan border that has been cordoned off by the Taliban, dozens of children, many under the age of two, have been crippled by the viral disease in the past six months.
And there is evidence in tests conducted on sewage samples in some of the country’s major cities that the polio virus is starting to spread beyond these isolated pockets and could soon spark fresh polio outbreaks in more densely populated areas.
“We have entered a phase that we were all worried about and were afraid might happen,” Elias Durry, head of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) in Pakistan, told Reuters in a telephone interview.
“The risk is that as long as the virus is still circulating, and as long as we have no means of reaching these children and immunizing them to interrupt virus transmission, it could jeopardize everything that has been done so far – not only in Pakistan, but also in the region and around the globe.”
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