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CDC Working To Eradicate Polio Amid Partial Government Shutdown

Noting how the U.S. government’s partial shutdown is affecting the CDC — closing eight of 10 global disease detection centers worldwide — Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson writes in an opinion piece, “Fortunately, the CDC’s polio eradication effort has been largely exempted from the shutdown.” He continues, “It is part of one of the most ambitious medical enterprises in history — attempting to eliminate a highly contagious virus from the wild. This has been achieved only twice before, with smallpox and rinderpest. The end of polio transmission is a few hundred yearly cases away. Even a brief pause would risk losing ground.”

“More than 99 percent of poliovirus transmission has been stopped over the past few decades. But the final bit is the hardest,” Gerson states. He notes the virus remains endemic in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nigeria. “Now a virus originating in Nigeria has caused an outbreak in Somalia, which has spread some cases to Kenya and Ethiopia,” Gerson writes. “Polio eradication is an enterprise now conducted at the frontiers of medicine and war — introducing vaccination into places that have never seen Western medicine and sometimes requiring negotiations with warlords and militias,” he states, concluding, “But these are struggles near the finish line of a landmark scientific achievement. And for those who doubt that any purpose of government can be essential, the daring, humane work of the CDC is a corrective” (10/7).