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‘Enormous Determination, Hard Work’ Necessary To Stamp Out Polio As Virus Resurfaces In Africa

“Only a few months ago, there was great optimism that polio was on the verge of eradication,” a Washington Post editorial states. But “[t]hose hopes now seem clouded by a poliovirus outbreak in Somalia and Kenya,” the newspaper writes, adding, “This year, there have been 81 cases in these two countries, more than the 59 cases in the three countries where polio remains endemic: Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria.” Noting “[v]accination is the most critical tool in the battle against polio,” the newspaper discusses concern over “immunity gaps,” writing, “[S]ome 500,000 children in Somalia have not been vaccinated in several years, if at all. These vulnerable children are in areas largely outside the control of Somalia’s weak central government, and the fear is these regions could become a cauldron for poliovirus, fueling the outbreak for a long time.”

“In hopes of containing the virus, road posts are being set up along major corridors to vaccinate those going and coming from the remote areas, while fresh vaccination campaigns are targeting Mogadishu, the Somali capital,” the editorial continues. “The latest outbreak underscores how armed conflicts threaten populations not only with bullets but also with disease,” the newspaper writes, noting, “This is not the first outbreak of its kind.” The Washington Post highlights a polio outbreak on the continent in 2003 that “result[ed] in some 700 cases,” and states, “Lessons learned from that experience are being deployed in battling the current outbreak, and it is not likely to derail the global campaign for eradication. But the virus is demonstrating a dogged resilience, and it will take enormous determination and hard work to extinguish the latest scourge” (7/29).