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Polio Outbreak in Tajikistan

Posted Jun 23 2010 12:00am
A little boy gets polio vaccination drops in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in June. (Allauddin Khan/Associated Press)

The growing polio outbreak in Tajikistan is a cause for alarm for countries like Canada, a medical journal editorial says.

Editors at the Canadian Medical Association Journal warn that Canada needs to ramp up polio vaccination rates, especially among children and others who are not fully vaccinated against the paralyzing and potentially deadly disease that has no cure.

Spread of the virus can only be prevented if more than 90 per cent of people in a community are vaccinated, the authors noted.

In April, the World Health Organization confirmed seven children with acute flaccid paralysis in Tajikistan had poliovirus type 1.

By June 1, more than 560 such cases had been reported, including 183 that were lab confirmed.

Tajikistan is the first persistent outbreak of poliomyelitis in the world in a previously certified polio-free zone, the editors said.

"In all countries certified as polio-free, including Canada, the Tajikistan outbreak should be clanging alarm bells," Dr. Noni MacDonald, the journal's public health editor, and editor-in-chief Dr. Paul Hébert wrote with the journal's advisory team.

The editors called on
  • WHO to be more proactive than just posting the increasing number of cases on its website.
  • Public Health Agency of Canada to issue immediate guidance on the importance of being fully vaccinated against polio.
  • Provinces and territories to urgently boost vaccination programs.
"Surveillance programs for acute flaccid paralysis must be on high alert," the editors said. "The threat of polio is no longer simply theoretical."

The UN health agency, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF and Rotary International set out to eradicate polio in 1988 but progress has stalled.

Source: CTV News
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