A historic resolution by the World Health Organization (WHO) will declare polio a global health emergency in the upcoming World Health Assembly to be held from May 21 to 26. Even as the world celebrates India's success in stopping active polio virus circulation, the threat of importation is worrying countries across the world.


 The WHO document on polio  says Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan - the only three polio endemic countries - have seen a significant increase in new cases in 2011 as compared to 2010. Nigeria saw 185% increase in cases. Afghanistan and Pakistan experienced 220% and 37% rise, respectively.

Nigeria and Pakistan were the only two countries with confirmed circulation of the P3 virus strain since last September. Compounding the problem is the finance gap that is plaguing the polio fight. WHO says the world is short by $1,090 million against an overall budget of $2,230 million.

The document says, "Already in the first quarter of 2012, an insufficiency of financing required some emergency eradication activities to be scaled back in 24 at risk countries. In line with the development of the Global Polio Emergency Action Plan 2012-13, a new more efficient strategy is being examined which would combine the eradication of the residual wild poliovirus transmission with the polio endgame strategy."

Oral polio vaccines (OPV) contain a weakened version of poliovirus, activating an immune response in the body. A vaccinated person transmits the weakened virus to others that also develop antibodies to polio, ultimately stopping transmission of poliovirus in a community.

Importation of the virus is India's biggest concern, specially from its neighbors.

WHO has said, "Travelers to and from Pakistan should be fully vaccinated, and travelers to the country who in the past have had three or more doses of OPV) should have another one before they travel. Some countries require travelers from Pakistan to be fully immunized against polio before they grant an entry visa."

For more information on this and other data on the fight to eradicate polio, contact Ted Trainer, teddytrainer@gmail.com.