Pakistan polio spreads to western China

by Ella FAIRCHILD on September 21, 2011

Polio has spread across to China, for what is the first time in 12 years after being sent from Pakistan, as confirmed by the World Health Organization.

The group said that a strain of polio, namely WPV1, has been found in China and is genetically linked to a type that is currently circulating in Pakistan. Thus far, seven cases have been confirmed in Xinjiang province, which shares a border with Pakistan.

The WHO has warned that there is a high risk of the virus spreading further as Muslim pilgrimages are made to Mecca. Polio, also referred to as poliomyelitis, affects the nervous system while also being highly infectious. It is transmitted through contaminated excrement, drinking water, and food - while sometimes causing paralysis.

This morning, the WHO said that the polio cases across Xinjiang were detected over the past two months. Authorities in Beijing are now looking into cases, with a mass vaccination campaign having already been launched across the affected region.

Polio was last brought to China from India 12 years ago in 1999, with the world’s most populous country’s last indigenous case five years prior to that in 1994. As is well known in the world of health, Pakistan is just one of a small handful of countries where the disease remains endemic. For some time, WHO officials were warning that the virus had spreading domestically around Pakistan to previously uninfected areas.

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