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Boston Globe Examines Rise Of Polio In Tajikistan, Other Pockets Of World

“Polio has reappeared in a corner of the world that had not seen cases in years – Tajikistan, the former Soviet republic – a chilling setback in the two-decade campaign to purge a dreaded cause of childhood paralysis from the planet,” the Boston Globe reports in a story that examines the reemergence of polio in other areas of the world.

“For much of the past decade, it appeared polio’s last stand would be in Africa and South Asia, which have borne the brunt of the viral disease in recent years. As recently as 2007, polio was restricted to just four nations. The roughly 600 cases so far this year are scattered across 16 countries,” the newspaper writes. “Its arrival in Tajikistan and Russia, part of a region declared polio-free in 2002, illustrates the easy spread of germs in an era of global travel and the challenge of maintaining vigilance in impoverished regions,” the article continues.

According to the Boston Globe, there have been 452 confirmed cases of polio in Tajikistan since February and seven cases confirmed in neighboring Russia. “The emergence of so many cases so swiftly has alarmed health agencies that have spent more than $7 billion since 1988 in the quest to vanquish polio as they had smallpox,” the newspaper writes.

The article details several factors health experts believe may have contributed to polio’s resurgence and looks at the vaccination drives in Tajikistan and surrounding countries. “The pace of new infections has slowed considerably since vaccinations began, disease investigators said, but they cautioned that it is too soon to declare an end to the outbreak,” according to the newspaper.

The article includes comments by Daniel Epstein of the WHO; Gerald Keusch, a professor of international health at Boston University School of Public Health; Steven Wassilak, an epidemiologist at the CDC; and Barry Bloom, a professor and former dean of the Harvard School of Public Health (Smith, 8/5).