Pakistan Polio Spreading To China

Ten children in Xinjiang have been infected with polio and their viral strains are believed to have come from Pakistan.  These are the first confirmed cases of polio in China since 1999. From NPR:

There’s word from the World Health Organization that wild poliovirus type 1 has appeared in 10 children in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region of China this month.

The viral strains isolated from these children were genetically linked to virus currently circulating in Pakistan, the WHO says.

They’re the first confirmed cases of polio identified in China since 1999, according to WHO.

It’s still unknown whether the virus was carried out of Pakistan into China, or whether a Chinese visitor to Pakistan carried the virus back home. Pakistan is one of only four countries still reporting polio, with 84 cases this year — up from 48 last year. The other three countries are Nigeria, India and Afghanistan.

British authorities are recommending that any travelers to the Xianjian Uygur region of China get a polio booster dose if they haven’t had one in the past 10 years.

Currently the polio outbreaks are in Hotan and Bazhou of Xinjiang province, but WHO authorities warn that the virus could spread beyond affected areas. From CNN:

The disease, a contagious viral illness that in its most severe form causes paralysis, difficulty breathing and sometimes death, broke out in the prefectures of Hotan and Bazhou in the country’s western Xinjiang province.

Among the ten cases confirmed, six are in children under three years old and four are young adults.

The WHO said evidence indicates the virus is genetically linked to polio cases currently circulating in Pakistan, which borders Xinjiang. Pakistan has been affected by the nationwide transmission of the same WPV1 strain.

“Although other areas in China or other countries are not immediately at risk due to the geographic distance to the affected province, the polio virus can travel great distances and find susceptible populations, no matter where they live,” Helen Yu, from the WHO’s Beijing office told CNN.

September 26, 2011 12:53 PM
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