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Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Just the Vax: Polio in China

So I am a little behind in getting some of this news out, but I figured that it's important to repeat it, even if the news isn't fresh or new.  As many are probably aware, because of the vaccination program throughout the world, smallpox has been considered eliminated.  Polio was nearly to that status.  Sadly, it is not yet.  Currently there is an outbreak in China.
As of 13 September 2011, nine cases of polio have been reported in the Xinjiang region.  There has been one death.  All of the cases had wild-type polio 1 (WPV-1) which originated from Pakistan.  Xinjiang shares a border with Pakistan where polio is endemic, along with other neighbouring countries, India, Afghanistan and Tajikistan that are also polio-endemic.

Four children between the ages of four months and 2 years were infected in July, data for the other five are unknown but appear to be all infants, including the one fatality.  This is the first outbreak of polio in China since 1999, when an importation from India was identified.  The last indigenous case was in 1994.  An intense surveillance and vaccination programme has been launched in the region in hopes that the spread can be contained.  However, given that paralytic polio occurs in ~1% of polio cases and of that, 5-10% result in death and there were at least four cases of paralysis and one death, it is more than likely that hundreds, if not thousands of cases have gone undetected.
 Now, there are some countries where the WHO does consider polio eliminated.  Most countries throughout the world as a matter of fact.  Sadly the United States is NOT such a country (along with China, Afghanistan, India, Nigeria, and Pakistan)!  I had been, but now we are facing the public health danger of anti-vax pro-disease propaganda, and we are having our public health standards dragged back to the last century.

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