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WHO Western Pacific Region’s polio-free status confirmed

Oversight body confirms WHO Western Pacific Region’s polio-free status

Beijing, 29 November 2012 - An independent oversight body meeting here has confirmed the World Health Organization (WHO) Western Pacific Region's polio-free status following China's successful control of the outbreak last year in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

“We are here again after viruses came over the mountains from Pakistan into Xinjiang Province in 2011, and our task is to assess the impact of that importation on the Region’s overall polio-free status and China’s response,” said Professor Anthony Adams, Chairman of the Regional Commission for the Certification of Poliomyelitis Eradication. "At our meeting last November in Hanoi, we already expressed our admiration for the way China had responded to this importation and recommended that it be an example to the rest of the world on how to respond to similar emergencies. We fully reiterate this view today.”

The Western Pacific Region, home to more than one fourth of the world's population, has been certified as polio-free since 2000. The 2011 outbreak, which China quickly stopped with technical assistance from WHO and other partners, underscores that no place is safe until the crippling and fatal disease is eradicated from the countries where it remains endemic: Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan.

Global incidence of the disease is at an all-time low. Nevertheless, Dr Shin Young-soo, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific, says that "almost is not good enough" with the poliovirus.

"Although we are closer than ever to stopping wild poliovirus transmission globally and to achieving the ultimate benefit of the huge investments we have made, we must press for complete eradication, while the political commitment to end this dreadful disease is strong,” says Dr Shin.

He commended the countries, experts and partners at the meeting for their steadfast commitment to the vision of a world free of polio and for helping energize the WHO Expanded Programme on Immunization in the Region.

“China’s all-out response to the polio outbreak is an inspiration to all countries in the Western Pacific to redouble efforts to have high-quality surveillance and immunization in place,” he confirmed. “It is encouraging to those places that still have polio that the right commitment, coordination and accountability will finally conquer this disease.”

The meeting took place on 28–29 November. Participants include representatives from national certification committees, senior national and provincial health experts from China, immunization advisors and representatives from key partner organizations. Dr Yu Jingjin, Director-General, Bureau of Disease Control at the Ministry of Health, welcomed them on behalf of the Government of China.

The WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific helps Member States remain polio-free by supporting efforts to strengthen poliovirus surveillance and by assisting with coordinating and enhancing immunization systems. The only way to prevent polio is by immunization, so maintaining high vaccination coverage is essential.

To retain its polio-free certification, the Western Pacific had to demonstrate that there had been no further polio cases in the Region for at least the past 12 months.

Related links:

• Health topic: Poliomyelitis: http://www.wpro.who.int/topics/poliomyelitis/en/
• China—One year polio-free: http://www.wpro.who.int/immunization/news/china_1yr_polio_free/en/index.html
• China—Another milestone achieved towards regaining polio-free status: http://www.wpro.who.int/immunization/news/chn_another_milestone_polio_free/en/index.html

ENDS

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