Why is Polio Still Around?
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Polio, which plagued humans for thousands of years, is on the verge of being wiped out. Compared with 1988, when the virus was found in 125 countries, today it�s only in three: Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan. But they pose stiff challenges.
In these countries logistics and politics are blocking the elimination of polio, and a lack of money makes the effort even tougher. The main problem is getting the vaccines to children in remote areas, which is complicated by geo-politics, much of which is anti-U.S.
For instance, the Taliban banned the vaccinations in Northern Pakistan to protest American drone strikes. Elsewhere in Pakistan, a community worker with the anti-polio campaign was shot and killed.
What�s driving some of the violence is a distrust of humanitarian workers. A polio vaccine program in Nigeria was undermined by rumors that the vaccine is unsafe and part of a plan to sterilize Muslim children.
Exacerbating the distrust was the CIA�s fake vaccination campaign to locate Osama Bin Laden. They planned to use DNA obtained by administering a Hepatitis B vaccine to identify Bin Laden�s children and thus find the terrorist. Revelation of the ruse enraged locals and put healthcare workers at risk.
These polio-endemic countries continue to place polio-free countries at risk for imported cases. An outbreak in China in early 2012 paralyzed 17 children, killed two, and may have come from Pakistan. Sadly, they were avoidable with a vaccine that costs just fifty cents a dose.
A valiant effort by multiple non-profits and governmental agencies is now underway to rid the last vestiges of this disease. Let�s hope this time it works.
For more information…
PubMed Health offers this informational page on polio.
Why polio hasn't gone away yet
Excellent and interesting CNN Health article with a history and background on polio
Lots of good info from KidsHealth.
A must-win battle in the global war on disease
A white paper from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which is one of the organizations working toward eradicating polio in the world today. Watch a video on their efforts or make a donation here. Other organizations heavily involved in the fight include the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, Rotary International, World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, and the CDC.