News / Africa

    Polio Spreads to Ethiopia

    FILE - A health worker drops anti-polio vaccine into the mouth of a Somali child in Mogadishu September 10, 2006.
    FILE - A health worker drops anti-polio vaccine into the mouth of a Somali child in Mogadishu September 10, 2006.
    A polio outbreak on the Horn of Africa has spread to Ethiopia.

    An 18-month-old child in the Warder district of Ethiopia is the country’s first polio case since 2008.

    Warder district is just across the border from Somalia, where 108 polio cases have been reported this year.

    Carol Pandak heads Rotary International’s polio eradication program.

    “It’s not surprising that the virus is spreading. This area has been considered high risk because of its proximity to Somalia," said Pandak.

    A Somali refugee camp in Kenya has also seen 12 cases of the paralyzing disease this year.

    The outbreak began in Somalia in May, when a two-year-old girl came down with the disease, the country’s first since 2007.

    But this strain of the virus did not originate there, Pandak says.

    “That virus comes from West Africa. And so, we need to deal with the remaining endemic countries because that’s where the virus originates. And so, you have to deal with both at the same time," she said.

    Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan are the last three countries where the polio virus is still endemic.

    Steve Baragona

    Steve Baragona is an award-winning multimedia journalist covering science, environment and health.

    He spent eight years in molecular biology and infectious disease research before deciding that writing about science was more fun than doing it. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a master’s degree in journalism in 2002.

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