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Indonesia has first case of polio in a decade, UN health agency says

Indonesia has first case of polio in a decade, UN health agency says

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Calling for more funds and a quicker response from governments to combat the polio virus in endemic countries and regions, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) today confirmed Indonesia’s first case of the crippling disease since 1995.

Calling for more funds and a quicker response from governments to combat the polio virus in endemic countries and regions, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) today confirmed Indonesia’s first case of the crippling disease since 1995.

The case was discovered on the Indonesian island of West Java, the WHO’s Christine McNab said in Geneva. An 18-month-old child was infected with a strain of the polio virus that can be traced to a recent outbreak in West Africa, which started when polio vaccination activity stopped in Nigeria.

Polio is a water-borne virus that primarily attacks children. It is deadly to many patients and it leaves others partially or completely paralyzed. Ms. McNab said that after looking at the genetic sequence of the Indonesian case, WHO researchers believed that the virus had somehow made its way to the country through the Red Sea area where cases had been reported in Saudi Arabia and Sudan.

Though such importations were normal in disease eradication programmes, Ms. McNab stressed that the key to avoiding further infections was to ensure that countries had strengthened surveillance systems for polio, and when the virus was detected, that action was taken quickly to vaccinate children under the age of five.

“This was already happening in Indonesia, which was targeting five million children in the larger region,” she said, but added that WHO and countries needed to continue to closely monitor the “polio virus reservoirs” like Nigeria and India, where the virus was endemic.

WHO also said it needed to raise $50 million between now and the end of July to conduct polio vaccination campaigns for children in those places, and an additional $200 million was required for next year’s activities.