Friday, October 1, 2010

New Bid to Halt Polio in Angola

(BBC News - Oct 1, 2010)  A mass polio immunisation campaign is starting in Angola in a bid to vaccinate all children under five.

The campaign is part of a series of programmes aimed at stopping a polio outbreak that has paralysed 24 children this year alone. Over 7 million vaccine doses are set to be delivered.  The World Health Organisation (WHO) says previous attempts to stop the virus circulating failed because too few children were vaccinated.

This outbreak in Angola started in 2007 and the WHO now considers it the greatest risk to Africa's polio eradication efforts.

Polio is a highly infectious virus which mainly infects young children. It is transmitted through contaminated food and water and once it enters the intestine it multiplies and can spread into the nervous system. "The good news is that we know this outbreak could be stopped very rapidly”  Oliver Rosenbauer,  Global Polio Eradication Initiative.

In the worst cases, polio causes paralysis which is often permanent. Current vaccines are highly effective in protecting children against infection. This outbreak, despite previous vaccination campaigns, has now spread to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The virus can only be stopped if all children receive the vaccine. The WHO estimates that in some areas of Angola more than a third of at risk children have not been immunised. Oliver Rosenbauer, spokesperson for the Global Polio Eradication Initiative at the WHO said: "Children across Angola, and indeed Africa, will continue to be paralysed by this awful virus, and it's completely needless because it could so easily be prevented.

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