` World Health Organisation Says Spread of Polio is Now a Public Health Emergency ‘

#AceHealthNews – WORLDWIDE – May 06 – The World Health Organization says the spread of polio has become an international public health emergency. The agency described the ongoing polio outbreaks in Asia, Africa and the Middle East as an “extraordinary” situation, AP reported.

The virus, which usually strikes children under five and is most often spread via infected water, continues to pop up in countries previously free of the disease, such as Syria, Somalia and Iraq, where unrest is complicating efforts to contain the virus.

According to the report The Emergency Committee convened by the Director-General under the International Health Regulations (2005) [IHR (2005)] was held by teleconference on Monday 28 April 2014 from 13:30 to 17:30 Geneva time (CET) and on Tuesday 29 April 2014 from 13:30 to 19:00 Geneva time (CET).

Members of the Emergency Committee and expert advisers to the Committee met on both days of the meeting.1 The following affected States Parties participated in the informational session of the meeting on Monday 28 April 2014: Afghanistan, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Israel, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia and the Syrian Arab Republic.

During the informational session, the WHO Secretariat provided an update on and assessment of recent progress in stopping endemic and imported polio-viruses and the international spread of wild polio-viruses in 2014 as of 26 April. The above affected States Parties presented on recent developments in their countries.

After discussion and deliberation on the information provided, and in the context of the global polio eradication initiative, the Committee advised that the international spread of polio to date in 2014 constitutes an ‘extraordinary event’ and a public health risk to other States for which a coordinated international response is essential. The current situation stands in stark contrast to the near-cessation of international spread of wild poliovirus from January 2012 through the 2013 low transmission season for this disease (i.e. January to April). If unchecked, this situation could result in failure to eradicate globally one of the world’s most serious vaccine preventable diseases. It was the unanimous view of the Committee that the conditions for a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) have been met.

At end-2013, 60% of polio cases were the result of international spread of wild poliovirus, and there was increasing evidence that adult travellers contributed to this spread. During the 2014 low transmission season there has already been international spread of wild polio-virus from 3 of the 10 States that are currently infected: in central Asia (from Pakistan to Afghanistan), in the Middle East (Syrian Arab Republic to Iraq) and in Central Africa (Cameroon to Equatorial Guinea).

A coordinated international response is deemed essential to stop this international spread of wild polio-virus and to prevent new spread with the onset of the high transmission season in May/June 2014; unilateral measures may prove less effective in stopping international spread than a coordinated response.

The consequences of further international spread are particularly acute today given the large number of polio-free but conflict-torn and fragile States which have severely compromised routine immunization services and are at high risk of re-infection. Such States would experience extreme difficulty in mounting an effective response were wild polio-virus to be reintroduced.

As much international spread occurs across land borders, WHO should continue to facilitate a coordinated regional approach to accelerate interruption of virus transmission in each epidemiologic zone.

The over-riding priority for all polio-infected States must be to interrupt wild polio-virus transmission within their borders as rapidly as possible through the immediate and full application in all geographic areas of the polio eradication strategies, specifically: supplementary immunization campaigns with oral polio-virus vaccine (OPV), surveillance for polio-virus, and routine immunization.

The Committee provided the following advice to the Director-General for her consideration to reduce the international spread of wild polio-virus, based on a risk stratification of the 10 States with active transmission (i.e. within the previous 6 months) as of 29 April 2014.

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1. World Health Organisation – May 05 – http://tinyurl.com/ocpgzmd