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May 08 2014

WHO Declares Global Emergency for Potential Polio Pandemic

polioI know, in all honesty you’re disappointed to hear that the Public Health Emergency of International Concern was declared over an existing disease. The last time this happened it was Swine Flu which was new and exciting and everyone you knew got sick. You were really hoping that next time it happened it would be the zombie outbreak you’ve been preparing for. Sorry to disappoint you.

The declaration follows a week-long consultation among global polio experts triggered by a worrying surge in cases during 2014, even though it has so far been the low season for the disease, which attacks the nervous system and can cause paralysis. Polio primarily spreads through contaminated water supplies, and with the warmth and rains of spring in the northern hemisphere, the high season starts in the next few weeks.

The most recent numbers speak for themselves. By last year at this time, there had been only 24 cases worldwide of disease caused by wild polio virus, representing only 6 per cent of the 417 cases eventually diagnosed last year. This year there have already been 68 cases, meaning numbers could now rise much higher. Nine of those were in five countries which had no known cases last year.

If you’re living in one of these war-torn countries, thanks for reading, and go make sure you’re up to date on your polio vaccinations. This has been your public-service-announcement-that-doesn’t-really-apply-to-you of the day.

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