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Archive
April 2001

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

7th April 2001

Polio Virus Eradication: Nearly 300,000 Children Receive Polio Vaccine.

AllAfrica Global Media (http://allafrica.com/) carried the following UN Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN) report from Nairobi, Kenya on April 7, 2001:

A total of 296,017 children under five years were vaccinated against polio during the second round of immunisation days in rebel-held territory in Sierra Leone, UNICEF announced in its 20-26 March situation report.

Ninety percent coverage was achieved in the 52 targeted chiefdoms in seven districts: Bombali, Kambia and Koinadugu, in northern Sierra Leone; Port Loko, northeast of Freetown; the central district of Tonkolili, and Kailahun and Kono districts in the east of the country.

During the first round in the same areas on 16 and 17 February, 289,777 children, some 87 percent of those targeted, were immunised. UNICEF, WHO, Rotary International and USAID provided financial and technical support to the Ministry of Health for the immunisation days.

Meanwhile UNICEF has provided 919 pairs of slippers, 230 sleeping mats, 270 buckets and 78 bales of used clothing and recreational kits to seven of its child-protection partners in Freetown and Kenema, some 230 km east of the capital. The items are to be distributed to children at interim care centres in the Western Area of Freetown, and the southern and eastern provinces.

The full text of the article can be found at http://allafrica.com/stories/200104070012.html
* allafrica.com archive accessible by paid subscription only *

[ Index ]

Polio Virus Eradication: Rolling Back Polio.

AllAfrica Global Media (http://allafrica.com/) carried the following UN Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN) report from Nairobi, Kenya on April 7, 2001:

New cases of polio in West Africa went down from 150 in 1999 to 20 last year, the World Health Organisation's regional representative, Mame Thierno Aby Sy, told IRIN on Tuesday. However 17 countries in West and Central Africa are still "at risk of the disease", he said.

WHO was part of a panel of five international organisations, including UNICEF, that briefed media and donors on the progress of their joint polio-eradication campaign. When the two UN agencies, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Rotary International and USAID launched the campaign in 1988, some 350,000 people were infected worldwide. Now there are 3,500 cases.

The drop in West Africa is partly due to synchronized national immunization days conducted in October and November 2000. Some 77 million children under five years were vaccinated, including 2.4 million who had not received the vaccine before. This reduced the prevalence rate by 80 percent, Sy said. In 1999, 66 million were vaccinated.

The panel appealed to the international community and donors for financial aid, and urged regional governments to focus more attention on victims. It also called on local media to become active promoters of the campaign, which needs US $400 million for eradication worldwide.

The full text of the article can be found at http://allafrica.com/stories/200104070085.html
* allafrica.com archive accessible by paid subscription only *

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

[ Index ]

6th April 2001
Polio Virus Eradication: Nepal's Polio Fighters Closing in on Disease.

Yahoo Daily News (http://dailynews.yahoo.com/) carried the following Reuters report by Alan Mozes from Nepal on Friday April 6 5:58 PM ET:

Behind a bustling outdoor spice market and a Hindu temple lies a dark alleyway bordered by open sewers, strewn garbage and foraging pigs. At the end of the lane is the one-room, windowless brick home of 17-month-old Arbaj Khan, the only new case of polio detected in the Royal Kingdom of Nepal in the year 2000.

Children like Khan were very much on the agenda of a meeting held this week in New York by representatives of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO), Rotary International and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

At that meeting, experts announced that just 3,500 new cases of polio -- once a scourge to millions -- were reported worldwide in 2000, a drop of 99% from the 350,000 reported in 1988. They hope the disease can be eliminated globally by 2002. Yet in spite of the upbeat news, the conference stressed that a single case of polio in Nepal means no child remains entirely safe anywhere in the world. Khan serves as a reminder that the battle is not yet won against this highly contagious and incurable neural disease that often cripples and kills, striking mostly children under age 3.

"The key now is urgently accessing and vaccinating the children we haven't been able to reach because of war, isolation and lack of infrastructure," said Carol Bellamy, UNICEF's executive director.

Bill Nichols, associate director for the CDC's National Immunization Program, agrees. But he stressed that, even in the absence of violence or natural disasters, eradicating polio from Nepal and the other 19 countries where it still circulates will be far from easy. He told Reuters Health that most people in developing Asian or African nations have little access to -- or trust in -- their national healthcare systems.

"It becomes an issue of overcoming fear and establishing communication," Nichols explained, forcing health workers to build a user-friendly medical system from the ground up. Experts are doing just that in Nepal, a focus of UNICEF's polio campaign. More than 70% of the people in this small, rugged landlocked nation live below the poverty line. Many are malnourished and lack safe drinking water, and most have never visited a doctor.

"We're on an all out war-footing now to reach the Nepali people that are at the highest risk for getting polio," Dr. Jean Clare Smith told Reuters Health. As a medical officer for WHO's Expanded Programme for Immunization and Polio Eradication, Smith has been based in Nepal for nearly 3 years. "We're searching for the marginalized: the slum dwellers, the geographically isolated, the ethnic minorities and the low-caste and low socioeconomic groups who don't yet know about National Immunization Days (NID)." Khan is one of the children NID was intended to reach. In heavily publicized vaccination campaigns repeated several times a year, health workers criss-cross the country, aiming to immunize more than 4 million Nepali children under age 5. However, despite the low cost of the vaccine (about 7 cents per dose), neither the Nepali government nor international aid groups have the means to hire the staff needed to implement NIDs. They rely instead on a corps of more than 44,000 female community volunteers, who do field work persuading families to immunize their children against polio.

That public relations effort can often be an uphill battle. Many Nepalese "are fundamentalist and resist modern medicine, and there are those in the minority Muslim community who think the vaccine is just a plot to exterminate them," explained Durga Mishra, UNICEF's assistant project officer for Nepal Saptari District. Many Nepalese are also reluctant to trade traditional herbal remedies for unfamiliar, costly Western treatments.

But the vaccination program is working -- mainly because of the outreach of the Nepalese volunteers. "Essentially, it's a miracle," said Wing-Sie Cheng, UNICEF-Nepal's chief of communication and information, adding that "a majority of these women are illiterate, and often we use cartoons to train them."

"Polio eradication is a real success story for this country," agreed UNICEF-Nepal representative Stewart McNab. "The Nepal health system has many weaknesses in it, but we just immunized almost 4 million kids for polio in 2 days in December, so trust seems to be developing. We've been doing this for 5 years, and they're still showing up."

Nevertheless, children like Arbaj Khan can still fall through the cracks. When diagnosed with polio at 3 months of age, the boy had only received one vaccination against the disease -- two fewer than he should have. A single dose of OPV does not fully immunize a child. To achieve complete protection, WHO recommends that children under the age of 5 receive four doses: at birth, at 6 weeks, at 10 weeks and finally at 14 weeks.

"The child will walk -- perhaps with crutches or a cane -- but there will be some wasting of his left calf muscle, very little reflex and some limping," Dr. Jagat Narain Giri said during a visit with the family. One of 10 polio surveillance officers stationed in Nepal by WHO, it was Giri who first detected Khan's case.

Children like Khan represent the final "1% challenge" in global efforts to banish polio to the history books. WHO's Smith said that if the global public health community can get to children like him before polio does, it will be the final nail in the coffin for a disease clearly on the run.

"The key now is doing incredibly complete and intensive surveillance," she said. "Because if we don't move very quickly, we won't get to eradication. It's a war."

The full text of the article of which the above is an extract can no longer be found at http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/nm/20010406/hl/polio_2.html

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

[ Index ]

3rd April 2001
Polio Virus Eradication: Polio eradication draws closer.

BBC News Online (http://news.bbc.co.uk/) reports on Tuesday, 3 April, 2001, 09:30 GMT 10:30:

A worldwide drive launched in 1988 to wipe out the crippling virus polio has reduced the number of cases by 99%.

Last year there were 3,500 reported polio cases, compared to 350,000 cases in the year the initiative started.

Even in the past year the number of cases has been halved from more than 7,000.

However, experts are warning that dealing with the final 1% could prove the toughest hurdle yet, as the campaign struggles to make an impact in countries hit by war and poor health facilities, such as DR Congo and Angola.

While even a few tiny reservoirs of the disease remain, they say, the disease could re-emerge and strike at future generations.

Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, director general of the World Health Organisation, said: "Victory over the poliovirus is within sight."

"We must now close in on the remaining strongholds of the disease and use all possible resources to extinguish polio.

"We ask that everyone involved maintain the focus on achieving this historical milestone in international public health."

Last year, 550m children under five-years-old were immunised during "national immunisation days" in 82 countries.

The organisations behind the campaign, which, alongside the WHO, include Rotary International, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, and the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef), say that they are still on course for a world free of polio by 2005.

War and polio.

Carol Bellamy, executive director of Unicef, said that the initiative now needs to reach children in even the most remote places on Earth.

She said: "It's essential that warring parties and international mediators give priority to ceasefires that allow us to get polio vaccine to these children."

More money is also needed - an estimated 285m to provide an estimated 6bn doses of vaccine to 600m children by 2005.

Polio is a highly infectious disease - the virus that causes it invades the nervous system and can cause paralysis.

One in 200 infections leads to irreversible paralysis and between 5% and 10% of those infected die.

Until worldwide coverage with vaccination can be achieved, whole communities are at risk from outbreaks.

An outbreak in August last year on the west African island of Cape Verde killed 17 and paralysed 44.

The full text of the article of which the above is an extract can be found at http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/health/newsid_1257000/1257691.stm

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

[ Index ]

2nd April 2001
Polio victims can suffer cruel relapse.
Thousands suffer post-polio syndrome years after recovery.

MSNBC (http://www.msnbc.com/) carried the following Associated Press report by John Curran from Mays Landing, N.J on April 2nd, 2001:

Bill Martin contracted polio at age 5, but eventually regained use of all his limbs, built a roofing company and raised six children. Then the disease returned. Martin, 66, of Spring Valley, N.Y., is among thousands of sufferers of post-polio syndrome, a weakening of muscles that were originally afflicted by the poliomyelitis virus.

"OH, I was 150 pounds of rompin', stompin' hell, I'll tell you. I'd wrestle with my kids, I'd do 100 push-ups a day. Now, I can't even play with my grandkids. My arms are so weak, I'm afraid to pick them up," he said.

Martin gathered with 65 other sufferers of post-polio syndrome and their relatives Saturday at a Post-Polio Symposium sponsored by the Bacharach Institute for Rehabilitation in Pomona and the Atlantic County Post-Polio Support Group. The disorder hits about 75 percent of the people who were stricken as children in the 1930s, '40s and '50s, before a polio vaccine was developed in 1955.

There is no known cure for post-polio syndrome. Patients are treated with strength and mobility conditioning, electrical stimulation and occupational therapy, said Sharon Grunow, director of occupational therapy at Bacharach.

One of the difficulties facing former polio victims is that polio's near-eradication - there were only 6,000 cases worldwide in 1998 - has reduced the medical community’s awareness of treatment options, said Dr. Homyar Karanjia, a podiatrist at the Rothman Institute in Philadelphia.

"People who've had polio know more about the disease than the students graduating from medical school these days," Karanjia said.

'CONSERVE IT TO PRESERVE IT'.

Unlike the use-it-or-lose-it philosophy used for other ailments, post-polio sufferers are taught to "conserve it to preserve it."

"If you overexercise, it'll make you weaker," Karanjia told the group. "Fatigue is the enemy. Like the tortoise and the hare, slow and steady wins the race."

John Rodgers used a wheelchair and braces after being stricken with polio at age 7. But he resumed walking by age 12 and went on to serve four years in the Navy and work 20 years as a letter carrier.

Nine years ago, he began suffering again. Eventually, he had to return to a leg brace and was reassigned from letter carrier to another Postal Service job.

"It's frustrating to realize you’re not normal anymore," said Rodgers, 58, of Mays Landing. "It's like getting really old really quickly."

The full text of the article can be found at http://www.msnbc.com/news/553429.asp

For further information on the Atlantic County Post-Polio Support Group see their entry in our International/National/Local Support Organizations Directory.

For further information on the Bacharach Institute for Rehabilitation Post-Polio Center see their entry in our Specialist Clinics and Health Professionals Directory.

[ Index ]

DATELINE
7th April 2001
Item 1
Polio Virus Eradication: Nearly 300,000 Children Receive Polio Vaccine.
Item 2
Polio Virus Eradication: Rolling Back Polio.
*
6th April 2001
Polio Virus Eradication: Nepal's Polio Fighters Closing in on Disease.
*
3rd April 2001
Polio Virus Eradication: Polio eradication draws closer.
*
2nd April 2001
Polio victims can suffer cruel relapse.
Thousands suffer post-polio syndrome years after recovery.
*
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Document preparation: Chris Salter, Original Think-tank, Cornwall, United Kingdom.
Primary Document Reference: <URL:http://www.ott.zynet.co.uk/polio/lincolnshire/archive/nbit200104.html>
Alternate Document Reference: <URL:http://www.zynet.co.uk/ott/polio/lincolnshire/archive/nbit200104.html>
Last modification: 26th April 2009.
Last information content change: 26th April 2009.

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