The battle to eradicate polio from the globe received another serious setback yesterday with news that the disease has spread to Indonesia as well as Yemen, both of which had been polio-free for nearly 10 years.
The World Health Organisation yesterday confirmed that an 18-month-old child had been paralysed by polio in a village in west Java, Indonesia. The case was declared the first since 1995. Seven other suspected cases are being investigated. Teams of WHO staff flew to &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/accidents/ 21/97/385/15190_tsunami.html ' target=_blank>Indonesia to help the government limit the outbreak. Four thousand children in four villages have already been immunised.
That news followed hard on the heels of revelations that there had been 22 confirmed polio cases in the past fortnight in Yemen, which had been free of polio since 1996.
The strain of polio virus in all the cases has been identified as the one that caused a large outbreak of the disease in Nigeria last year.
Immunisation against polio had to be stopped in the Nigerian state of Kano in August 2003 because of local suspicions and rumours that the vaccine had been designed to make Muslim children infertile, reports the Guardian Unlimited.
According to VOA News, &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/society/2002/06/18/30569.html ' target=_blank>Polio is a water-borne virus that primarily attacks children. It is deadly to many patients and it leaves others partially or completely paralyzed. Dr. Burkholder says that while Indonesia has a good record of immunizing against polio, with 90 percent of the population covered, there are still isolated areas where immunization rates are low. The infected toddler had not been immunized. This is the first case of what is known as a wild-virus polio infection in Indonesia in a decade.
However, WHO records show that several dozen patients in Indonesia developed polio after being vaccinated against the disease in the late 1990's. Such vaccine-related cases are relatively rare, but are not considered unusual. Since 2001, Indonesia has recorded no polio infections at all. The virus found in the Indonesian case closely matches samples collected in an outbreak in recent months in Saudi Arabia and Sudan. That virus apparently came originally from Nigeria, where many people boycotted immunization programs in 2003 and 2004.