Major Polio Epidemic Hits Yemen
Polio, once virtually eradicated, is making a big comeback over the last two years, with cases reported in 15 previously disease-free countries.
A polio epidemic has infected 22 children in Yemen, and the paralyzing virus is threatening to spread further, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday. The United Nations agency, which reported four cases around the Red Sea port city of al-Hudaydah last week, said 18 more children had contracted the disease in the poor Arab state. It is the latest setback to the WHO’s campaign to wipe out transmission of polio worldwide by year-end. An epidemic which originated in Nigeria has swept across Africa since mid-2003. “What we are facing now is a major epidemic of polio in Yemen,” David Heymann, head of the WHO’s polio eradication program, told a news briefing in Geneva.
It was not yet known whether there had been any fatalities among the victims, who include children from all over Yemen. “Experts fear that the number of cases will rise in the immediate future,” the WHO said in a statement. It said it was investigating other suspected cases, and low immunisation rates among Yemeni children could facilitate the outbreak’s spread. The polio virus mainly affects children under the age of five and can cause irreversible paralysis in a matter of hours. Yemen, which last reported polio in 1996, is the 15th previously polio-free country to be reinfected since mid-2003, including 13 in Africa and Saudi Arabia.
All we need is the resurgence of polio. One wonders what’s going on in Africa that’s making it come back. Is it simply poor innoculation programs or are there conditions there that have created drug-resistant strains?