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Entire Western Pacific region polio free

29 October 2000 Media Statement

Entire Western Pacific region polio free

Embargoed to Sunday, October 29, at 2pm

Health Minister Annette King says she is delighted with today's World Health Organisation declaration that New Zealand, along with the entire Western Pacific region, has been declared polio free.

"That is great news for the region. Now the WHO can concentrate even more attention on eradicating the disease globally, and on the eradication of other diseases, like measles."

Mrs King said the Western Pacific region contained one quarter of the world's population, and eradication in the region was therefore a significant step toward global eradication.

"Until the WHO is convinced the disease is eradicated globally, however, vaccination against polio must continue in New Zealand. Polio is a potentially devastating viral disease, spread from person to person, and we cannot afford to risk future outbreaks resulting from imported cases."

Mrs King said that until polio vaccines became available in 1961, polio was a common childhood disease in New Zealand, and in 1956, the worst year, there were 1400 cases notified in this country.

"Vaccination was immediately extremely effective in New Zealand in the early 1960s, but eradication throughout the region represents a considerable public health achievement. Organisations like UNICEF and Rotary International, which have worked closely with the WHO on eradicating the disease, have contributed powerfully to this achievement.

"Now we must all work equally hard to eradicate other diseases that can have such a severe effect on the lives of our children."

ENDS


Additional material on polio:

Background material, photos etc are available from the following web addresses:
http://www.moh.govt.nz
http://www.who.int/vaccines-polio/
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aso/ontheedge/polio/
http://www.imac.auckland.ac.nz/
http://immunise.health.gov.au/
http://www.cdc.gov/nip/vacsafe/
http://www.immunize.org/

Elaine Ellis Pegler, who is co-ordinating the Piercing Memories project; collecting stories from people who had diseases such as polio, diphtheria etc, is apparently available for interviews. Phone 09 631-7091 and leave a message - she will get back to you.

Local contacts from the Post Polio Support Society NZ (Inc):
Ray Wilson 03 434-6405 President Oamaru
Audrey Richardson 07 548-0385 Vice President Tauranga
Jenny Green 03 455-1122 Secretary Dunedin
Raylee Murphy 06 323-3321 Board Member Feilding
Julia Squire 06 306-9925 Board Member Martinborough
Lois Campbell 06 347-9101 Board Member Wanganui
Mary Philips 03 359-8347 Board Member Christchurch
Joan Radburnd 03 326-5533 Board Member Christchurch
Greg Cochrane 07 575-9363 Board Member Mt Manganui
Graham Butterworth 04 232-7072 Board Member Wellington
Sid Hawken 07 865-8775 Branch contact Coromandel
Laura Ladkin 07 855-7395 Branch contact Waikato
Jill Hudson 06 868-5056 Branch contact Gisborne
Penny Humphreys 06 877-5136 Branch contact Hawkes Bay
Raylee Murphy 06 323-3321 Branch contact Manawatu
Lois Campbell 06 347-9101 Branch contact Wanganui
Doris Hoare 04 567-5429 Branch contact Lower Hutt
Jenny Kissane 03 545-1030 Branch contact Nelson
Patsy Bell 03 755-7172 Branch contact Hokitika
Janet Benfell 03 303-6207 Branch contact Ashburton
Ron Bryden 03 614-8380 Branch contact Timaru
Jill Steenson 03 439-5827 Branch contact Oamaru
Jenny Green 03 455-1122 Branch contact Dunedin
John Braithwaite 03 218-4878 Branch contact Invercargill


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