The World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed a third case of polio in Nigeria. According to reports, the patient is a toddler living in Monguno, a local government area located in the state of Borno that was recently liberated from Boko Haram extremists. The new case comes on the heels of Nigeria being declared a polio-free nation last year, a huge step in the war against polio, however two new cases came to light last month. Experts are concerned that more cases could crop up in the area in the coming weeks. To help halt polio’s spread, Rotary International has ramped up its vaccination efforts during an emergency immunization drive that has so far immunized 1.5 million children in the region, however it’s believe that children at most risk of being infected reside in areas too dangerous to access by healthcare workers.
Reports are coming in from Pakistani police that gunmen have killed Dr. Zaka Ullah, a physician who was instrumental in an anti-polio drive in Peshawar, Pakistan. The shooting took place on Monday while he was returning home from evening prayers, but it remains unclear whether he was targeted for his role in the country’s anti-polio campaign. In the past, Islamic militants have attacked healthcare and vaccination centers helping in the fight against polio, as they perceive it to be part of a Western conspiracy to sterilize children or collect intelligence.
In a video interview, Micaela Martinez, PhD, postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University, discusses how vector seasonality can potentially be used to eradicate polio worldwide. According to Martinez, polio outbreaks are more common in the summer, but often in countries where the wild poliovirus is still prevalent, such as Afghanistan and Pakistan, mass polio drives take place during the cooler months, since the oral polio vaccine needs to be kept cold. In the cooler months, when polio transmission is low, is the best time to conduct drives, since the virus is much more vulnerable then, according to Martinez, and that health officials should use a similar approach.
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.