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Number Of Polio Cases Worldwide Reaches Record Low, But Experts Say Challenges Remain

“The number of polio cases worldwide reached a record low in 2012, giving experts confidence that the disease can finally be eradicated, according to presentations made at” the annual meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH) in Atlanta on Tuesday, Agence France-Presse reports (11/13). “The number of polio cases around the world that have been reported this year as of October dropped to 177, down from 502 cases as of October 2011,” and “for the first time ever, no new cases were reported in previously unaffected countries, meaning the geographic spread of polio has slowed,” the Los Angeles Times’ “Booster Shots” blog writes (Bardin, 11/13).

“But the experts said challenges in the fight against polio remain, citing a doubling this year of the number of cases in Nigeria, and persistent difficulties in Pakistan,” AFP adds (11/13). “Opposition to immunization in polio-endemic countries, particularly Nigeria and Pakistan, is one of the final hurdles to eradicating the crippling disease, according to presentations at [the] conference,” SciDev.net reports, noting that “fears surrounding the safety and religious implications of vaccines discourage parents from immunizing their children” (Rinaldi, 11/13). Steven Wassilak, an epidemiologist and polio expert at the CDC, “said new data from Pakistan show that of the two types of wild polio virus (WPV1 and WPV3) circulating in the country, the one known as WPV3 — or Type 3 — is close to being eliminated,” an ASTMH press release states (11/13).

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