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WHO Declares Spread of Polio a Public Health Emergency

  • VOA News

A Pakistani health worker gives a child a polio vaccine in Lahore, Pakistan, Monday, May 5, 2014.
The World Health Organization says the spread of polio is now an international public health emergency that could grow in the coming months.

The agency on Monday said currently there are polio outbreaks in 10 countries in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. This is the first time that the World Health Organization has issued an international alert on polio.

Polio usually strikes children under the age of five and is most often spread through infected water. There is no specific cure for polio, but several vaccines exist to prevent people from polio infections.

When WHO began its global polio eradication campaign in 1988, there were 350,000 cases of the crippling disease. Last year, there were 417 cases.

Experts are particularly concerned that polio is re-emerging in countries previously free of the disease, including Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Iraq, Israel, Somalia and Syria.

The bulk of new polio cases are in Pakistan. WHO says 59 of the 74 new cases this year are from that country.