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Polio was almost eradicated. This year it staged a comeback

At the beginning of this year, there was a thrum of excitement among global health experts: Eradication of polio, a centuries-old foe that has paralyzed legions of children around the globe, seemed tantalizingly close.

But there were several ominous setbacks.

Malawi in February announced its first case in 30 years, a 3-year-old girl who became paralyzed following infection with a virus that appeared to be from Pakistan. Pakistan itself went on to report 14 cases, eight of them in a single month this spring. In March, Israel reported its first case since 1988. Then, in June, British authorities declared an “incident of national concern” when they discovered the virus in sewage. By the time New York City detected the virus in wastewater last week, polio eradication seemed as elusive as ever.

“It’s a poignant and stark reminder that polio-free countries are not really polio-risk free,” said Dr. Ananda Bandyopadhyay, deputy director for polio at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the largest supporter of polio eradication efforts. The virus is always “a plane ride away,” he added.

Read full story (paywalled)

Source: The New York Times (18 August 2022)


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