Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Polio Eradicated in the Horn of Africa

After a polio outbreak in 2008 that paralyzed 101 children in Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda, the Horn of Africa is once again free of the disease, according to UNICEF. All four countries reported no new polio cases in the last year. UNICEF noted that the successful handling of the polio outbreak is attributed to a series of multi-country immunization campaigns and technical support and political engagement by the affected countries. UNICEF went on to say, "the end of this outbreak is further evidence that the full and swift implementation of international outbreak response guidelines work."

Last month the World Health Assembly adopted a new Global Polio Eradication Initiative Strategic Plan to limit further international spread of polio. The plan includes the Short Interval Additional Dose strategy, in which children are immunized at short intervals to more rapidly raise population immunity levels. The Strategic Plan aims to build on successes in endemic countries, such as Nigeria, where the number of polio cases has dropped by more than 99 percent in the last year - from 312 cases to just three. It will also target Afghanistan, India and Pakistan, where the disease still remains endemic.

- Clara Hill