News / Health

Polio Mostly Eradicated Globally

Jessica Berman
The global scourge of polio has been virtually eradicated, reaching historically low numbers this year.  But pockets of the disease remain in South Asia and Africa because of the refusal of some parents to immunize their children. 
 
International public health officials counted 177 polio cases worldwide for the first ten months of this year.  That’s a drop from just over 500 cases in 2011.  Public health officials credit the drop to successful immunization campaigns against the illness, which attacks the nervous system and can cause partial or total paralysis.  The malady has disappeared from most countries where it was once epidemic.  For example, in India, there have been no cases of polio reported in two years.  
 
But in neighboring Pakistan and Afghanistan, and in Nigeria, West Africa, reservoirs of the viral illness remain. Experts say that is due to the refusal of many parents to vaccinate their children against the infection.
 
Anita Zaidi is head of pediatrics at Aga Khan University in Karachi, Pakistan. She says intensive public health efforts are underway to vaccinate children against polio.  But she says the gains are fragile in some areas and among some ethnic groups, particularly among the country's Pashtun community.  
 
Zaidi says 74 percent of Pashtun children go unvaccinated because many parents believe the immunization is harmful.
 
“They believe that it can cause sterility in their children or that it’s a conspiracy to sterilize Muslim populations so that their population growth falls, or they believe in the ..value of a vaccine so they think it’s not harmful but it won’t do anything so why take it," she said. 
 
Polio is acquired through contact with feces-contaminated water.  Often, Zaidi says, infected children don’t develop symptoms right away so they are unaware that they are exposing other children to the disease. This scenario is common in very dense urban slums, where the availability of clean water is low.
 
But polio is easily preventable with a series of oral vaccines beginning in infancy.
 
Zaidi says the key to a successful vaccination campaign in these pockets of polio infection is to engage members of the community to help.  
 
“So that is you have a refusal, [so] you get somebody from that community that you’ve built up trust with, that the community has built up trust with, and you get them to talk to the family," she said. 
 
Pediatrician Anita Zaidi presented a progress report on polio eradication efforts at a meeting this week of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene in Atlanta, Georgia.

You May Like

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid