“India was taken off a list of polio endemic countries by the World Health Organization on Saturday, marking a massive victory for health workers battling the crippling disease” and “leav[ing] just three countries with endemic polio — Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria,” Agence France-Presse reports (2/26). “Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said the WHO removed India from the list after the country passed one year without registering any new cases,” the Associated Press/CBS News writes, adding, “India must pass another two years without new cases to be declared polio-free” (2/27).
The WHO “is calling on all Afghans to vaccinate their children after a recent measles outbreak that has been made worse by severe weather that hampers access to immediate treatment as well as low immunization coverage,” the U.N. News Centre reports. At least “20 children have died due to measles and pneumonia in the western provinces of Ghor and Baghdis,” the news service notes (2/22). “As the outbreak has grown more serious, Afghan authorities and the WHO set up five temporary clinics and vaccinated more than 3,600 children in the outbreak zone, while treating more than 6,000 patients, health officials said,” according to the Los Angeles Times’ “World Now” blog (2/21).
The PBS NewsHour examines polio eradication efforts in India, which has gone an entire year without reporting a polio case. “For India, the challenge is to remain vigilant and polio free for two more years to officially fall off the list of endemic countries,” according to the news service (De Sam Lazaro, 2/20). “The success in India has been achieved through a partnership between the Indian government, with support from the World Health Organization (WHO), Rotary, UNICEF and with major contributions from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,” BBC News reports in an analysis of India’s success. “The global effort to eradicate polio is the biggest public health initiative in history. It has cost billions and has already stopped a huge amount of disability and many deaths,” but the disease remains endemic in three countries — Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan, the news service notes (Walsh, 2/19).
Indian Authorities Vaccinate Children Crossing India-Pakistan Border; Distrust Of Polio Vaccines Grows In Pakistan
After going a year without recording a polio case, Indian health officials have begun vaccinating young children who cross the border to or from Pakistan at the Munabao railway station in Rajasthan state, BBC News reports. “The drive was launched after more than 175 cases of polio were reported in Pakistan, officials said,” the news agency writes (2/16).
In “the first in a series of conversations with officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) discussing the CDC’s role in global HIV and tuberculosis (TB) research and development,” the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog interviews Kayla Laserson, director of the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI)/CDC Field Research Station in Kisumu, Kenya. Laserson answers questions about her work with the CDC, the latest research projects underway at KEMRI/CDC, and progress in Kenya’s HIV response since she began working in Kisumu six years ago, among other topics (Mazzotta, 2/14).
Nature reports how “[i]n the hunt for drugs that target diseases in the developing world, … [p]harmaceutical companies are making entire libraries of chemical compounds publicly available, allowing researchers to rifle through them for promising drug candidates.” The journal writes, “The latest push for open innovation, unveiled last month as part of a World Health Organization road map to control neglected tropical diseases, will see 11 companies sharing their intellectual property to give researchers around the world a head start on investigating drug leads.”
Pakistan and Afghanistan, “the world’s two worst polio-affected countries,” have “decided to form a joint block under the World Health Organization to eradicate the infectious disease — which causes motor paralysis and the atrophy of skeletal muscles, often resulting in permanent physical disability or deformity — by December 2012,” Inter Press Service reports. “The decision was made last year by the Technical Advisory Board (TAG), which is responsible for developing new strategies to wipe out the disease globally,” the news service notes.
“The key to India’s success” in going a full year without recording a case of polio “was to take ownership of the problem and the solution, allowing for locals to learn from the expertise of the international community while not becoming dependent” on non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and international donors, William Thomson, a research assistant at the U.S. Naval War College, writes in The Diplomat’s “India Decade.”
In this video report, Al Jazeera examines polio eradication efforts in Pakistan, writing, “[I]n an unusual effort to eliminate the disease, health workers are stopping vehicles at a busy toll booth outside Islamabad to administer free polio vaccination drops to children under the age of five.” The video recounts a “promise” made by Pakistan’s prime minister last month to eliminate new polio infections in the country by the end of the year and provides commentary by Shahnaz Wazir Ali, assistant to the prime minister on social affairs, and Dennis King of UNICEF Pakistan about the target, current infection rates, and ongoing eradication efforts (Tyab, 2/6).
Following an outbreak of the mosquito-borne yellow fever virus in Cameroon that has infected at least 23 people and killed at least seven people, U.N. and local officials are working to vaccinate “1.2 million people considered at high risk of contracting yellow fever, which has no cure,” the U.N. News Centre reports. “The U.N. Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), the International Coordinating Group on Yellow Fever Provision (YF-ICG) — which includes WHO and the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) — and the public-private partnership known as the GAVI Alliance are funding the vaccination campaign,” the news service writes. In Ghana, YF-ICG is working with the European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO) to plan a vaccination campaign after at least three cases of yellow fever have been reported in the north of the country, the U.N. News Centre notes (2/3).