World Video | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Natural Events | Trade | NZ in World News | NZ National News Video | NZ Regional News | Search

 


Surveillance After Polio Spreads To Saudi Arabia

UN Agency Calls For Continued Surveillance After Polio Spreads To Saudi Arabia


The United Nations health agency today stressed the importance of continued surveillance for polio following the spread of the potentially paralyzing disease from West Africa to Saudi Arabia, but a leading expert said the three new cases were not a setback for plans to interrupt transmission of the virus by the end of this year.

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) Representative for Polio Eradication, David Heyman, told a news briefing in Geneva that since September three children had carried the virus into Saudi Arabia across land from West Africa and through Sudan, and that the pilgrimage to Mecca was one way it could spread further.

Polio began to spread again from the only six remaining endemic countries : Afghanistan, Egypt, India, Niger, Nigeria and Pakistan when various Nigerian states suspended immunization in 2003 over concerns by public figures about the safety of the vaccine, including rumours that it was contaminated by the HIV virus or could sterilize young girls. The suspension was later lifted but not before the disease re-infected 10 other previously polio-free African countries.

WHO Coordinator of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative Bruce Aylward told a questioner the new cases were not a setback in terms of plans to interrupt transmission of polio by the end of 2005. Among other steps, Saudi Arabia had held immunization campaigns in advance of the pilgrimage in areas at risk of communicable diseases and its normal immunization coverage was over 95 per cent.

It was not possible to quantify the risk at this point, but there were a number of positive elements including the fact that this was the low season for polio and the pilgrimage mainly involved adults, Dr. Aylward added.

WHO is seeking to make polio, which once paralyzed hundreds of thousands of children worldwide each year, the first disease in the 21st century to be totally eliminated through mass immunizations – and only the second ever after smallpox.

Dr. Heyman said that in the latest case a Nigerian boy living with his family near Mecca, who had not travelled outside Saudi Arabia for two years but whose home had been visited by travellers with children from Nigeria, became sick in mid-December despite having been vaccinated. For every child paralyzed there could be up to 250 others in the area who carried the virus without showing symptoms, he added.

He noted that five of the six endemic countries were members of the Islamic Conference, but he also stressed that sanitation at the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, which has just ended, is impeccable and there are very seldom outbreaks of any disease.

WHO’s guidance to pilgrims around the world was that as long as polio was present anywhere in the world, it remained a risk to any other country through any international travellers, he said.

So pilgrims were one way that the polio virus could be spread, but there were also many other ways. For countries which might feel that they were at risk from Saudi Arabia or any other country, the most important thing to do was to continue their surveillance for polio, he stressed.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
World Headlines

 

At The UN: Paris Climate Agreement Moves Closer To Entry Into Force

The Paris Agreement on climate change moved closer toward entering into force in 2016 as 31 more countries joined the agreement today at a special event hosted by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. More>>

ALSO:

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The End Game In Spain (And Other World News)

The coverage of international news seems almost entirely dependent on a random selection of whatever some overseas news agency happens to be carrying overnight... Here are a few interesting international stories that have largely flown beneath the radar this past week. More>>

Amnesty/Human Rights Watch: Appalling Abuse, Neglect Of Refugees On Nauru

Refugees and asylum seekers on Nauru, most of whom have been held there for three years, routinely face neglect by health workers and other service providers who have been hired by the Australian government, as well as frequent unpunished assaults by local Nauruans. More>>

ALSO:

Other Australian Detention

Gordon Campbell: On The Censorship Havoc In South Africa’s State Broadcaster

Demands have included an order to staff that there should be no further negative news about the country’s President Jacob Zuma, and SABC camera operators responsible for choosing camera angles that have allegedly made the President ‘look shorter’ were to be retrained... More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On A Bad Week For Malcolm Turnbull, And The Queen

Malcolm Turnbull’s immediate goal – mere survival – is still within his grasp... In every other respect though, this election has been a total disaster for the Liberals. More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On Bidding Bye Bye To Boris

Boris Johnson’s exit from the contest for Conservative Party leadership supports the conspiracy theory that he never really expected the “Leave” option to win the referendum – and he has no intention now of picking up the poisoned chalice that managing the outcome will entail... More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
World
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news