Officials arrested three people in Peshawar, Pakistan, after they refused to allow their children to receive the polio vaccine during a three-day immunization drive. The three parents are all residents of the Takhatabad area of the city and were sent to prison for their actions. They will be released once they have submitted written apologies and assure that their children will receive the life-saving vaccine. The three-day drive took place last month at 13 high-risk districts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, a province in Pakistan, and aimed to vaccinate 3.6 million children younger than five years old.
It’s been exactly 100 years this summer that New York City experienced its first outbreak of polio. Earlier this summer, U.S. health officials made the announcement that the first cases of Zika virus, which can occur as the result of a mosquito bite from an infected insect, had been verified in the continental United States. The American public’s current uncertainty of Zika, and its learning more about the virus and its causes, interestingly mirrors people’s perception of polio a century ago.
Health departments throughout Punjab, Pakistan, are diligently completing computerized records of children under the age of five throughout the region before an upcoming polio vaccination drive later this month. The drive, which will take place August 29 through 31 in cities throughout the Punjab Province, is expected to be one of the final pushes to finally eradicate the country of polio. Healthcare officials are asking that parents of children in this age bracket cooperate as the data they will glean will be useful in determining how many will need the vaccine during the drive.
After it was announced earlier this month that two new cases of the poliovirus cropped up in Nigeria, details are starting to emerge of what exactly happened. According to health officials, the African nation has been polio-free for two years prior to the outbreak, however, the cases were both found in the northern part of the Borno State where raids by Boko Haram, an Islamic extremist group, have been abundant, therefore making it difficult for healthcare workers to access children in need of the lifesaving vaccine. Workers were able to trace the outbreak back to 2011, and believe it was likely dormant in the local sewage system.
The World Health Organization (WHO) commended Nigeria for its prompt management of a new polio outbreak that occurred earlier this month in the African country’s Borno State. The commendation came during regional director Matshiduso Moeti’s address during the 66th session of the African Regional Committee Meeting in Ethiopia, where she applauded Nigeria’s Federal Government for its quick response to the outbreak and President Muhammadu Buhari for his directive to a government agency to release money budgeted for vaccines. She ended by pledging the commitment of WHO to halt polio’s resurgence in its tracks.
In an essay, author Judith Shaw Beatty recalls how, in 1949, she contracted polio, which was the very same year that approximately 42,000 other Americans were diagnosed with the debilitating illness. In her essay, she writes about her time spent in an iron lung in the local hospital, the poor treatment she received while there, and her return to school after suffering such loss. However, most of her writing is focused on her ongoing work as a vaccine advocate and her thoughts on the current anti-vaxxer movement.
Is it possible that terrorists are the reason why polio hasn’t been completely wiped out? Some people have been asking this very question. For example, two of the last countries where polio is present—Pakistan and Afghanistan—are also areas with a strong terrorist presence. In Afghanistan, members of ISIS have been known to block immunization drives and have created anti-immunization propaganda to persuade locals from receiving the lifesaving vaccine. In 2014, The Taliban accused polio vaccination teams of spying and banned them from certain parts of Afghanistan, while in Pakistan campaignedagainst immunizations. Earlier this year the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) or Pakistani Taliban also claimed responsibility for a bombing outside a polio clinic.
This month would have marked the two-year anniversary of Nigeria being polio free, however the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) both confirmed two new cases. In separate statements, the organizations confirmed that both cases involved children located in the northern Borno state of Africa and resulted in paralysis. Using genetic sequencing, authorities confirmed that the cases are linked to the last wild poliovirus strain detected in the state in 2011. In response, the WHO and other Global Polio Eradication Initiativepartners will be increasing surveillance and conducting a widespread immunization campaign. “It’s a blow,” said Sona Bari, a spokeswoman for the WHO’s polio program. “It’s the first time in history that a country has stopped transmission and then found indigenous virus again.”
Folk singer Donovan Leitch of “Mellow Yellow” fame admits that he’s had a charmed life, but he wonders what it would’ve been like if he hadn’t been diagnosed with polio as a child. “I spent a lot of time in bed after having polio while my dad read poetry to me,” said Leitch, who’s now 70 years old. He recalls that he contracted polio while growing up in Glasgow, a city left destroyed after WWII. Leitch recalls playing in open sewers with his friends, and contracted the disease before the lifesaving vaccination made it to Scotland. As a child, he underwent surgery to help prevent the development of clubfoot, which resulted in one leg growing thinner and shorter than the other. Despite this setback, Leitch says he was able to swim and run long distances, and by his teenage years he picked up his first guitar. “Luckily in the music industry, everyone was only interested in my singing and playing and not the size of my legs,” he said.
In Karachi, Pakistan, female health workers have taken the lead in the fight to end polio. Despite local resistance, and even coming under attack in some instances, these women continue to go door to door administering the life-saving polio vaccine to area children and educating parents who resist treatment for their children. Due to Pakistani tradition, men aren’t allowed to interact with women who aren’t relatives, so females have been put to task to run anti-polio campaigns throughout the country. Many people liken their work to being on the front lines during war, and are calling for their recognition in the form of the Nobel Prize.