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West African Health Officials Tackle Resurgent Polio

Health officials across West Africa have launched a coordinated campaign to vaccinate the region's children against the polio virus. The campaign is an effort to eradicate the disease, which has re-merged in countries that had been declared polio-free.

Ghana has joined a number of other countries across the region in the renewed effort to control polio, by launching efforts to vaccinate children throughout the country. Polio, a highly contagious disease, has recently reappeared in countries across West Africa where it had previously been controlled.

The vaccination campaign in Ghana includes thousands of volunteers and health workers, who are spanning the country during a three-day effort to locate children and administer the oral vaccine.

Nurse trainee Eva Ewuah is among the volunteers working the neighborhoods of the capital.

"We are doing this exercise for three days. We are starting from today. We are going until Saturday, so three days. We are going from house to house across the whole country," she said.

Ewuah says the campaign is national. In order for the highly communicable disease to be quelled, it is important for every child to be vaccinated.

The campaign is coordinated by UNICEF and the World Health Organization, in conjunction with the Ghanaian ministry of health. A second round of vaccinations, to assure thorough administration of the vaccine, will commence within a few weeks.

The Ghanaian campaign is the most recent in a series across the region aimed to treat 20 million children. Officials in Togo, Benin, and Burkina Faso are also preparing campaigns this month.

The first round of vaccinations is coming to an end in Nigeria, which last year had more than 800 reported polio cases, the highest figure in the world.

Wild polio remains endemic in areas of northern Nigeria, where stigmas against vaccination, including rumors that the vaccine carries AIDS, and that it is meant to sterilize young Muslim girls, have made reaching full vaccination in the area impossible until now.

Much of the rest of the region had been declared polio free in 2005, but cases were found again last year in several countries, including five in Ghana, and three in Togo.