Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Polio from Pakistan found in China

I have written several times about the problem of polio eradication in Pakistan (for example, see here, here, here, and here). There are many reasons for problems with full vaccination programs: war, opposition to western medicine, and the inaccessibility of some parts of the northern Pakistan. But here is a reminder, that this is not a local problem. It looks like polio has reappeared in China after complete eradication. And it seems that it jumped from Pakistan. From last week's Science:
After more than a decade without a case, China is grappling with an outbreak of wild poliovirus. The Chinese Ministry of Health confirmed the disease in four young children in Hotan Prefecture, Xinjiang province, in western China, who became paralyzed between 3 and 19 July. It's another major blow to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), which had hoped to stop wild transmission of the crippling virus by the end of next year. 
Genetic analyses have confirmed that the newly detected type 1 virus jumped the border from Pakistan, where conflict and inhospitable terrain have hampered efforts to vaccinate children. Cases in Pakistan have soared to 72 this year, up from 39 this time last year. Just 2 months ago, GPEI's Independent Monitoring Board warned that Pakistan's epidemic could jeopardize the entire global effort. China will launch an emergency campaign to vaccinate 4.5 million children in the immediate area in early September, according to GPEI.
Hope it gets contained. 

On a related note, I just saw Contagion. It is quite good and apparently, quite realistic. An epidemiologist, Ian Lipkin, was their science advisor, and he spent 20 days on the set, making sure that things are portrayed in a realistic sense. Even the virus they concocted for the film has some roots in an actual virus that killed about a 100 people. In fact, check out his recent oped in NYT, The Real Threat of 'Contagion', about the movie and a very real threat of a global pandemic. It is not an amazing film, but quite decent. Go check it out.                        

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