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March 2000

Short news items with a Post-Polio element gleaned from 'here, there and everywhere'. Contributions welcomed. Email Please make it clear that your news item is for inclusion in NewsBites and include any source references.

30th March 2000

Diet link to cancer that killed Dury.

In "The Times", London ( Medical Briefing, Dr Thomas Stuttaford writes:

THE late Ian Dury developed paralytic polio at the age of seven because he exercised in the early stages of the infection.

The disease can at first be confused with flu and if the young Dury had rested with his sore throat instead of swimming, all may have been well. As it was, he became one of the few, unlucky sufferers to develop a long-term weakness.

To what extent the stress of his residual disability and popstar lifestyle led to the breakdown of his immune system and cancer is still conjectural.

The known factors which pre-dispose to colo-rectal carcinoma are gender and family history. Cancer of the colon is slightly more common in women than men. Although there is a genetic factor, cases do occur without a family history.

Diet, it is also claimed, is very important. Those who enjoy fatty steaks, few vegetables and sweet pudding have a higher incidence than high-fibre, low-fat eaters. Those who eat white meat and fish regularly do not seem to have any extra chance of developing the disease. The effect of alcohol is still inconclusive. However, as the case of the sports presenter Helen Rollaston demonstrates, even a healthy diet cannot always stop the disease.

An awareness of suspicious intestinal symptoms is the best safeguard. People need to watch for any change of bowel habit, bleeding, anaemia, colicky, lower abdominal pain, a sense of incomplete emptying and fatigue.

Ian Dury's tragic death at 57 has at least spared him the complication of post-polio syndrome. Some people who have had polio as children develop in late middle age increasing paralysis, severe tiredness, pain and weakness in the muscles that were damaged 50 years earlier.

The complete text of the article can be found at

[ Index ]

Royal Society accused in row over origins of HIV.
Conference put off 'after pressure from vaccine theory opponents'.

In the Guardian ( James Meek, Science correspondent, writes:

The Royal Society, Britain's most prestigious scientific body, was accused yesterday of bowing to pressure from opponents of a controversial theory of the origin of the HIV virus after it said it was postponing a conference called to debate the issue.

One of the leading advocates of the theory, which holds that HIV was spread accidentally from chimps to man by western doctors testing an experimental polio vaccine in the Belgian Congo in the 1950s, said yesterday that the society was trying to give the idea's opponents more time to organise a counter-attack.

Ed Hooper, whose book, The River, ignited a ferocious dispute among the HIV and Aids research community worldwide, said: "I see this as an attempt by certain members of the scientific community to load the dice in their favour with regard to the origins debate, and one has to ask why they feel the need to do that."

One biologist who reviewed the book called it "the theory to beat".

In the US, researchers who have devoted their careers to meticulous research into more conventional theories of the origins of Aids have scorned The River and refused to attend the conference. One US scientist compared the Royal Society event to a discussion among astrophysicists of whether the moon was made of green cheese.

One of the organisers of the conference, Robin Weiss, professor of virology at London's University College, denied that the delay in holding the conference - originally to be held in May, now rescheduled for autumn - had anything to do with pressure from opponents of the theory.

"I think that's risible. It's nothing to do with marshalling a defence."

The postponement comes just three weeks after the sudden death from a malaria-induced haemorrhage of the leading scientific supporter of the polio vaccine theory, Bill Hamilton, one of the world's leading evolutionary biologists.

Professor Hamilton had contracted malaria a few days earlier as he left the Congo, where he had been gathering evidence in support of the polio thesis.

The May conference was his idea. His family is understood to have written to the Royal Society, asking that it go ahead as plannned.

HIV, the virus which causes Aids, is now accepted to have spread to humans from apes, perhaps chimpanzees.

Most researchers support a version of the "cut hunter" theory, which supposes that a hunter in Africa - where apes are sometimes eaten - was infected by ape blood while slaughtering an animal.

The polio vaccine theory, backed up in The River by nine years of research, 600 interviews and the study of thousands of articles, suggests that HIV was spread to humans by well-meaning western doctors in a tragic accident when the kidneys of infected chimps were used to manufacture an orally-administered polio vaccine.

The Wistar Institute in Philadelphia, the research centre which made the vaccine - CHAT - more than 40 years ago, has always denied that chimps were used to make it. Hooper's evidence to the contrary is so far circumstantial.

An independent inquiry set up in 1992 to investigate earlier, less thoroughly researched claims of a polio vaccine-HIV link recommended that residual samples of the vaccine stored at the institute be tested, but this was never done.

Only now, in the wake of the furore triggered by the Hooper book, are three unidentified labs in the US and Europe about to carry out tests.

Professor Weiss said the need to wait for the results of these tests was one of the reasons for delaying the conference.

Although he admitted that the polio vaccine theory, as aired in The River, was the trigger for the conference, he downplayed its importance.

"It was Professor Hamilton's idea that the Royal Society was an appropriate forum to debate this scientific controversy. The Royal Society pondered it, brought in two HIV experts, and our advice was that it should not be exclusively about the book.

"Only one session is devoted to the polio vaccine theory. That's one of the many theories about how it came about.

"We thought we might get a better debate, and better science, if we delayed it a few months."

The complete text of the news report can be found at

For Polio eradication and vaccine related resources see our directory Polio Virus, Vaccine and Eradication

Related NewsBites reports:
15th December 1999 - Researchers Challenge Theory That Polio Trials Led to AIDS.
30th November 1999 - Is AIDS a Man-Made Plague? New research revives the theory that HIV may have originated in a polio vaccine.

[ Index ]

Polio Eradication: Ethiopia: Seven Days Update (Addis Ababa).

In Africa News Online ( Information Digest, the following report dated March 29, 2000 appeared:

The African Regional Polio Plus Eradication Committee of Rotary International has said that it has committed over 10 million birr for polio eradication efforts undertaken in Ethiopia over the past three years. The chairman of the committee, Mr. John B. Majiyabe, told ENA today that the allocated sum was part of the 117 million U.S. dollars Rotary International spent for the eradication of poliomyelitis in Africa. He said that in cooperation with the World Health Organization (WHO) and other overseas partners, Rotary International had contributed to global polio eradication endeavors in mobilizing volunteers for immunization at local levels. The regional committee is in Ethiopia to analyze the level of polio eradication in Africa and to discuss the campaigns against the disease. Mr. Majiyabe said Ethiopia is one of the five African countries with a high frequency of polio infections.

The complete text of the news report can be found at

For Polio eradication and vaccine related resources see our directory Polio Virus, Vaccine and Eradication

Notification of the above news items was received via NewsIndex

[ Index ]

29th March 2000
Polio Eradication: Comedian Lahham Boosts Sudan's Anti-Polio Campaign.

In Africa News Online ( the Pan African News Agency (PANA) reports from Khartoum, Sudan:

Syrian comedian and UNICEF's Goodwill Ambassador, Duraid Lahham, is in Sudan to give a boost to the country's sixth national polio vaccination campaign which took off Wednesday.

The campaign, whose aim to finally eradicate the crippling disease, is targeting 5.4 million children below the age of five.

"Children are neglected in many parts of this region and there is need for the international community, the NGOs and the local societies to join hands to resolve children's problems especially in areas of economic hardship and armed conflict," Lahham told journalists on arrival in Khartoum Tuesday.

"I have been so much captivated by the kingdom of children that I came to recognise that the future of any nation must pass through the gate of children," he said.

Lahham, 66, has acquired fame throughout the Middle East for his satirical talents that can force a giggle even in scenes of distress.

The comedian has produced dozens of plays, including works wholly dedicated to children, films and TV serials, attract wide audiences in the Middle East because of their sharp criticism of totalitarianism and human rights abuse.

The Sheraton group of hotels that supports UNICEF programmes has granted Lahham the status of 'Sheraton's Special Guest' wherever he travelled around the World.

The official launch of the vaccination campaign was organised in Atbara town, some 120 km north of Khartoum.

Addressing guests during the occasion, Vice President George Congor praised the WHO and the UNICEF for supporting the vaccination campaign.

"Sudan is committed to the international charter on child rights and we will do our best to see those rights met," he said.

In Khartoum, Lahham gave the go-ahead signal for Khartoum state by vaccinating the first baby at a ceremony organised on the premises of the state's ministry of health.

The first round, conducted in February, was described by the organisers as a "complete success".

Together with the polio vaccine, the young ones will get a doze of Vitamin A to protect them against night blindness, also common in Sudan.

Organisers said the Vitamin A doze is capable of reducing child mortality due to blindness by 23 percent. They said the vitamin can also reduce possibility of measles infections by 50 percent.

The complete text of the news report can be found at

Notification of the above news item was received via NewsIndex

For Polio eradication and vaccine related resources see our directory Polio Virus, Vaccine and Eradication

[ Index ]

27th March 2000
Obituaries: Ian Dury: diamond geezer, masterful songwriter.

BBC News Online (, Monday, 27 March, 2000, 15:26 GMT 16:26 UK, writes of Ian Dury:

He was never much of a singer, but Ian Dury's songs were instantly memorable, combining streetwise Cockney humour with verbal cleverness and a tormented delivery.

Polio at the age of seven had left him with a withered hand and leg. He began playing and writing songs while lecturing at Canterbury Art College.

He tried his hand at painting before forming the legendary pub rock band, Kilburn and The High Roads. The group became Ian Dury and The Blockheads and a string of hits followed, Dury often writing with his friend, Chas Jankel.

Sex'n'Drugs'n'Rock'n'Roll hit the heights in 1977. It was followed by the band's debut album, New Boots and Panties, which was to spend two years in the charts.

Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick, which sold one million copies in January 1979 alone, gave The Blockheads a chart topping hit, but it was only the tip of an impressive iceberg of creativity.

Ian Dury's songs were peopled with Cockney geezers and grotesques like Clever Trevor - "knock me down wiv a fevva" - and Billericay Dickie, which could have been a traditional music hall patter song reinvented for a punk generation.

Indeed, there was much about Ian Dury which resembled his heroes, Max Miller and Max Wall. Asked by Ian Dury to introduce The Blockheads once, Wall commented wearily afterwards: "They only wanted to see the walk."

As Ian Dury rode the crest of the New Wave, the hits just kept coming. There were songs like the touching Wake up and Make Love to Me, Reasons to be Cheerful, Part Three and What a Waste, with the memorable lyrics:

"I could be a lawyer with stratagems and ruses,

"I could be a doctor with poultices and bruises,

"I could be a writer with a growing reputation,

"I could be the ticket man at Fulham Broadway Station,

"What a waste!"

Live, The Blockheads were a delight with a rich, almost funky, sound complemented by superb rhythm and horn sections and guitarists of the calibre of Wilko Johnson.

Ian Dury campaigned for disabled people and worked with those with mental illness. He had suffered depression himself.

But by the late 1980s, his career in rock music seemingly over, Ian Dury switched his attention to his first love, painting, and acting.

He appeared in several television plays and films including The Cook, the Thief, his Wife and her Lover and a musical, called Apples, which he wrote with another member of the Blockheads.

Dury's first wife, Betty, with whom he had two children, died of cancer in 1994. Though estranged, his grief was starkly highlighted as he wept during an appearance on Desert Island Discs.

In 1996, he was diagnosed as having cancer of the colon. After undergoing an operation, secondary tumours appeared on his liver. He was told that the condition was terminal.

But, typically, he made the best of his predicament. He told one interviewer: "I haven't shaken my fists at the moon, I'm not that sort of geezer. I'm 56 and musn't grumble. I've had a good crack, as they say."

And, after learning that his cancer had spread, he took this opportunity to marry the sculptress Sophie Tilson, the mother of his youngest two children.

In 1998, almost as an act of defiance, he reformed The Blockheads, recorded a critically acclaimed album, Mr Love Pants and went back on the road for the fist time in 17 years.

The boy from Upminster in Essex, who found it easier to cope with being stared at because of his limp than because he was famous, was a well educated and thoughtful man.

His streetwise charm, mixed with an astonishing verbal dexterity, took him right to the top but Ian Dury never lost his effortless ability to cheer and bring pleasure to all who met him.

He was, as they say in Essex, a diamond geezer.

The full text of the obituary can be found at

[ Index ]

24th March 2000
Polio Eradication: Hingis named goodwill amabassador by WHO.

CNNSI ( carried the following Associated Press report from Key Biscayne, Florida:

Tennis star Martina Hingis has been named goodwill ambassador for polo eradication by the World Health Organization.

Hingis will work to raise money and awareness to fight the highly infectious disease, which can cause total paralysis in hours.

"As WHO ambassador, I'll do everything I can to smash this frightening disease off the planet," said Hingis, who is in Key Biscayne for the Ericsson Open. "All children should have the chance to be active, to use their legs to run around the playground, to swim, kick a ball or play tennis."

Hingis plans to travel to a polio-endemic country and help immunize children against the disease, the WHO said.

The complete text of the news report can be found at

Notification of the above news item was received via NewsIndex

For Polio eradication and vaccine related resources see our directory Polio Virus, Vaccine and Eradication

[ Index ]

19th March 2000
Polio Survivors in the News: Childhood illness taught exec early to be tough.

Alabama Live ( reported the following from a Huntsville Times article written by Rebecca Sallee:

One of the highest-ranking civilians at Redstone Arsenal always has been tough, despite a health problem that threatened to keep her down.

Sara Mills, chief of management of operations and business at the Research, Development and Engineering Center at Redstone, was stricken with polio at the age of 2.

Mills, a native of Georgia who now lives in Athens, was living in Mississippi at the time of her illness, which paralyzed her partially and left her unable to walk.

Her parents, who had three other daughters, returned the family to their native home of Pine Mountain, Ga., near the warm springs where former President Franklin Roosevelt, who also had polio, had been treated.

At the same time, she was introduced to her numbers and alphabet letters, Mills was also learning to walk all over again.

"I think when you're 2 years old, if you've got any muscle left, you're going to learn to walk again," said Mills, who remembers childhood as "painful."

"I took a lot of kidding, kids teasing me," said Mills, who wore built-up shoes and walked with a noticeable limp. "My sisters also did not cut me any slack. But the fact that they didn't pamper me made me stronger."

By the time she was in junior high school, Mills said, she had finally "got it right," walking, that is. Though she continues to wear a slightly built-up shoe, "I finally succeeded in walking where it's not real noticeable," she said.

Mills graduated from Auburn University with a degree in foreign languages and accounting. She met and married her first husband, Charles Vessels, and began her accounting work at Redstone Arsenal.

The complete text of the news report from which the above is an extract can be found at

Notification of the above news item was received via NewsIndex

[ Index ]

15th March 2000
Polio Eradication: Polio vaccine for RUF areas.

In Africa News Online ( the Concord Times reports from Freetown, Sierra Leone:

Former rebel chiefs Foday Sankoh of the RUF and Johnny Paul Koroma of the AFRC have assured health workers engaged in the polio eradication drive of maximum security in all rebel controlled areas.

Health workers told Concord Times that they were optimistic that with security, they would reach all corners of the country.

National Coordinator for the National Immunization Days (NIDs) Campaign Dr. Alhassan Sesay has observed that at the end of the year 2000, polio would have been eradicated from Sierra Leone.

"All we badly needed was the assurance of unhindered accessibility to all parts of the country," he said.

In the four rounds strategy for the final rounds, the use of cultural groups has been strengthened.

Health Education Manager Valentine Kawa said that the use of cultural groups to disseminate messages about polio is very effective.

"Through the use of culture in local languages to pass on health messages on polio, people can better understand it," Mr. Kawa stressed.

Health officer Momodu Sesay said that in order to ensure that there are no more cases of polio in the country, a surveillance of people who develop paralysis is currently in progress in the country.

"The Acute Flaccid paralysis surveillance is going on even in rebel held areas," Mr. Sesay said.

WHO Information Officer, Rod-Mac Johnson said that the first of the last rounds of the polio campaign would be on March 25 and 26 2000.

The complete text of the news report can be found at

Notification of the above news item was received via NewsIndex

For Polio eradication and vaccine related resources see our directory Polio Virus, Vaccine and Eradication

[ Index ]

8th March 2000
Polio Eradication: Polio Must Go (Opinion).

In Africa News Online ( Sulaiman Momodu of the Concord Times writes from Freetown, Sierra Leone:

Polio, the dreaded debilitating disease is to be eradicated this year. Locally, nationally and globally, the World Health Organisation{WHO] says polio must go.

In this line, over the past 24 months or so, health workers have been moving the length and breadth of the country in a fierce effort to make this dream a reality. Small pox has been eradicated, now it is the turn of polio to be wiped out of the world, WHO stresses.

Judging by the mood of those involved in the push, kick Polio out of the globe campaign, the disease would be a thing of the past come December 31. But how far or near are we from this objective? In the last round of the kick Polio out of Sierra Leone [Africa] campaign, health authorities have expressed satisfaction over the success they recently scored. Good try.

Perhaps, I should give cheers to all those who in diverse ways contributed to that over seventy percent success. Let me strictly warn you though that I am not a Communication or Public Relation officer of any national or international health organisation neither is this piece a supplement nor an advertisement.

However, I would like to acknowledge the efforts of people like Mr. Rod-Mac Johnson, Mr. Sheik N'jai, Dr, Alhassan Kamara, Mr. Valentine Kawa and many more who have been using nearly all the little energy reserve they have to kick polio out.

The question now is, as the last rounds draw closer with every sun rise and sun set; will the country be assessable to all health workers? Member of Parliament Mr. A.O.D George has pointed put that the mass media should join forces with them to drive away the crippling disease. Basically, Mr. Geroge was recently impressing on the minds of journalists, that polio must be eradicated at all cost.

In my view, what media people should do is to educate people on the need to eradicate Polio and in particular, encourage those controlling security to kindly make it available to the polio campaigners.

Let me ask: How would Foday Sankoh for instance feel if he were a polio patient? I guess he would feel very terrible. Disability does not mean inability, I accept. But, (I stand to be corrected anyway) it is very expensive to manage disability. This is made worse by the fact that disabled people especially those badly crippled are ostracised by society.

I can tell you for free that if Sankoh had been a polio victim, he would never have been leader of the RUF. Similarly, most Sierra Leoneans are so naive that even when it comes to ordinary local elections, they look for the disability free. It is interesting to note that in some academic institutions, candidates for various student union positions had lost elections simply because their colleagues did not like their face(s).

There are many disadvantages in having the disease Polio in a country let alone talk about the globe.

What is certain however, is that the disease can be eradicated and some countries have already done so. Why not we? Currently, a surveillance for Acute Flaccid Paralysis [AFP] is in progress in the country. Momodu Sesay of the Epidemic Disease Control Unit says that stool samples are being taken and sent abroad for examination. When a certain number [several hundreds] of stool samples are free of polio, that country is free of polio. Whether medically inclined or bankrupt, it is simple logic that when something is eradicated, there should not be a single case anywhere.

Our case, I mean in Sierra Leone is unique. When the campaign started in 1998, January 6 interrupted it. And in recent times even though most parts of the country were yes-go areas, insecurity made others no-no zones.

I am not in the know about whether there are any special funds for Sierra Leone to have more rounds of polio. What I do know is that the last Polio round will kick off on March 25.

The Director General of Medical Services [Dr. Sheku Kamara] says that Polio is dangerous to the leaders of tomorrow. No questions about it. It is therefore time we gave support to UNICEF, WHO Rotary International and of course our own Ministry of Health for Polio to go forever.

For too long we have been at the bottom of everything that is progressive. The starting of the Polio eradication campaign is no exception.

I believe and very strongly that with the cooperation of the rebel chiefs especially Foday Sankoh in instructing his men not to harass Polio Officers, polio will go. Please let us don't be the spoilers of the global polio eradication campaign. By the end of the year 2000, Polio must go.

The complete text of the news report can be found at

Notification of the above news item was received via NewsIndex

For Polio eradication and vaccine related resources see our directory Polio Virus, Vaccine and Eradication

[ Index ]

30th March 2000
Item 1
Diet link to cancer that killed Dury
Item 2
Royal Society accused in row over origins of HIV
Item 3
Polio Eradication: Ethiopia: Seven Days Update (Addis Ababa).
29th March 2000
Polio Eradication: Comedian Lahham Boosts Sudan's Anti-Polio Campaign.
27th March 2000
Obituaries: Ian Dury: diamond geezer, masterful songwriter.
24th March 2000
Polio Eradication: Hingis named goodwill amabassador by WHO.
19th March 2000
Polio Survivors in the News: Childhood illness taught exec early to be tough.
15th March 2000
Polio Eradication: Polio vaccine for RUF areas.
8th March 2000
Polio Eradication: Polio Must Go (Opinion).
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