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Polio: Myanmar Plans Vaccination Campaign After Confirming First New Case In Three Years; India Fights Disease In Rural Areas

UNICEF said that Myanmar is planning a mass polio vaccination campaign of children under age five after the country confirmed its first case of the disease in three years, Agence France-Presse reports (2/21). “A seven-month-old infant was infected with vaccine-derived poliovirus (VDPV) in December,” according to UNICEF’s office in the country, IRIN writes (2/17).

One case of polio warrants implementing an “emergency response,” UNICEF said. When the child’s illness was first detected in December, health officials acted quickly to vaccinate 10,000 children in the Mandalay region in central Myanmar, according to AFP. “This case of polio detected in December was very unfortunate as Myanmar was about to officially receive the polio-free status in December 2010,” Ramesh Shrestha, UNICEF representative in Myanmar, said.

It is unclear how the seven-month-old infant contracted VDPV, which is “genetically mutated from the version contained in the oral polio vaccine,” but routine vaccinations might have missed some children, Shrestha added. A team from the WHO is already in Myanmar to develop a plan to stop the virus from spreading, UNICEF said. A vaccination campaign will either target 3.4 million children in certain areas, or a national campaign will focus on reaching seven million children (2/21).

AP Examines India’s Successful Efforts To Reduce Polio In Remote Areas

Polio virus remains “stubbornly hidden” in some of “India’s forgotten villages” that are “untouched by electricity, running water, sanitation and even the barest of health care. … And it is here where the long-stalled global fight to eradicate the crippling disease might be on the verge of a badly needed victory,” the Associated Press writes in a story examining efforts to eradicate polio in India. Last year, India recorded 42 cases of polio – down 94 percent from the year before, the AP notes.

The news service reports that efforts to fight the disease are “staggering,” with health care workers inoculating 172 million children in five days in January. “Similar campaigns have fallen short in the past, but two factors this time are different: Health workers are armed with a new, more effective vaccine, and nearly airtight monitoring means virtually no child is missed, not even in the most remote of villages,” the news service reports.

The article highlights the significance of polio vaccination in India and reports on the methods health workers in India have used to ensure as many children as possible receive vaccinations. It also notes some of the factors that make eradication challenging. “Since 2009, the government, which runs this $300-million-a-year campaign with help from the WHO and UNICEF, has shored up efforts to finish off the disease,” the AP writes.  

Several people are quoted in the article including: Ellie Ehrenfeld, a member of WHO’s Advisory Committee for Polio Eradication; Donald Henderson, who oversaw WHO’s smallpox eradication program; Tim Peterson, a polio expert at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Lakhindra Prasad, chief medical officer of India’s Darbhanga district (Nessman, 2/21).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.