Polio outbreak in Tajikistan is cause for alarm

Jun 23, 2010

The rapidly growing polio outbreak in Tajikistan raises serious concerns that the disease could spread to other regions in the world, states an editorial in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal). It is imperative that health agencies attempt to limit further spread by ensuring high vaccination rates.

Polio is a serious disease that can cause paralysis and death in both children and adults. However, vaccines had largely eradicated the disease, until dipped below the minimum 90% coverage mark recommended by the WHO. There is no cure for polio — prevention with vaccines is the only defense.

This is the first persistent outbreak of polio in a country that was previously certified to be polio-free. The outbreak represents 75% of the world's polio cases and far exceeds that of India and Nigeria, which are usually the sources of polio outbreaks.

"Too many regions and communities have ceased to worry about polio," writes Dr. Paul Hébert, Editor-in-Chief, CMAJ with Dr. Noni MacDonald, Public Health Editor. "As a consequence, vaccine uptake rates are all too often well below effective prevention levels."

Countries such as the Ukraine and Georgia are below the 90% target, and regions within Canada and some European countries have low community uptake rates. In Ontario, for example, childhood immunization rates are only in the high 70% to low 80% range, comparable to rates in Tajikistan. Concerns about vaccine safety, anti-government views and religious strictures against vaccinations have contributed to this lower uptake.

Individuals without polio symptoms started the Tajikistan outbreak with cases now appearing in Russia and Uzbekistan. Global travel can hasten the spread of the disease.

Urgent action is needed beyond the mass polio vaccine campaigns now underway in Tajikistan. The WHO must be more proactive in raising awareness of the issue beyond posting the growing numbers on its Global Polio Eradication website. The Public Health Agency of Canada must issue immediate guidance on the importance of polio vaccination, and the provinces and territories need to ramp up programs to improve vaccination uptake rates.

"The threat of is no longer simply theoretical," conclude the authors. "We are only one asymptomatic traveller away from an outbreak because of low vaccination rates."

Explore further: Greater emphysema-like lung on CT linked to mortality

More information: www.cmaj.ca/cgi/doi/10.1503/cmaj.100831

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Polio eradication hinges on four countries

Oct 13, 2006

Successfully global eradication of polio depends four countries' efforts to vaccinate children, the Swiss-based Advisory Committee on Polio Eradication said.

Somalia free of polio once again

Mar 26, 2008

The World Health Organization said Somalia is once again polio-free thanks to the efforts of 10,000 health workers and volunteers.

Polio surge in Nigeria after vaccine virus mutates

Aug 14, 2009

(AP) -- Polio, the dreaded paralyzing disease stamped out in the industrialized world, is spreading in Nigeria. And health officials say in some cases, it's caused by the vaccine used to fight it.

Recommended for you

New hope for rare disease drug development

7 hours ago

Using combinations of well-known approved drugs has for the first time been shown to be potentially safe in treating a rare disease, according to the results of a clinical trial published in the open access Orphanet Journal of ...

Three weeks since last Ebola case in Mali: WHO

10 hours ago

Mali has not had a case of Ebola for three weeks, the World Health Organization said Wednesday, completing one of the two incubation periods the country needs to be declared free of the virus.

Migraine may double risk for facial paralysis

11 hours ago

Migraine headache may double the risk of a nervous system condition that causes facial paralysis, called Bell's palsy, according to a new study published in the December 17, 2014, online issue of Neurology, the medical journa ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.