Polio outbreak hits China
BEIJING (BDCi) – For the first time since 1999 China has confirmed that an outbreak of polio has hit their country, leaving one person dead and nine others hospitalized, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
The disease broke out in the prefectures of Hotan and Bazhou in China’s western Xinjiang province. It is described as a contagious viral illness that in its most severe form can cause paralysis, difficulty breathing and even death.
Six out of the ten cases confirmed are children under three years old and the four others are young adults.
There is evidence that shows the virus is genetically linked to polio cases that are currently infecting individuals in Pakistan, which borders Xinjiang, said the WHO. Pakistan has been affected by the nationwide transmission of the same WPV1 strain.
People are being warned that the virus could in fact spread beyond the borders of the currently affected area.
“Although other areas in China or other countries are not immediately at risk due to the geographic distance to the affected province, the polio virus can travel great distances and find susceptible populations, no matter where they live,” Helen Yu, from the WHO’s Beijing office told CNN.
The Ministry of Health has sent a group of health experts to the affected region to help treat the virus, according to China’s Center for Disease Control.
The local government has started a massive vaccination campaign starting early in September. WHO confirmed that the initial vaccination campaigns carried out by mid-September reached over 3.5 million children who could be affected by the disease.
The health ministry has said further vaccination campaigns will take place in the near future to make sure that the outbreak is completely under control.
Polio, also known as poliomyelitis, is usually transmitted through contaminated food and water. It invades the nervous system and often leads to permanent paralysis. It can be prevented by immunization.
By: Kristyn Fryrear
Source and photo courtesy of: CNN
September 21, 2011