According to a recent New York Times article, recent polio outbreaks in Syria, Pakistan, and Cameroon have compelled the World Health Organization to declare a Global Health Emergency, effectively issuing travel restrictions for the three countries and summoning their leaders to augment efforts to control the disease. Though only 68 cases of polio had been reported by April, this number marks a significant escalation for a disease thought to be nearly eradicated after 25-year international vaccination campaigns. Furthermore, only 1 of 200 polio cases exhibit symptoms, implying that the number of polio carriers has increased even more drastically. Scientists have yet to discover a cure for polio, and the disease can inflict paralysis and death among hosts, particularly among children.
A key consequence of the Global Health Emergency declaration, the travel restrictions reflect an increased severity in the tone of regulatory functions of the World Health Organization. By the time of the declaration, polio had already spread from the three countries to Afghanistan, Iraq, and Equatorial Guinea, and the WHO fears the disease may spread to other nations such as South Sudan or Ukraine, whose current civil conflicts would hinder vaccination campaigns. While the WHO lacks the authority to implement those restrictions, other countries likely will ban travel to the affected countries and reject entries from Syrian, Pakistani, or Cameroonian citizens.
While polio has largely disappeared throughout the world, the disease still threatens resurgence in some nations where civil conflict or political disorganization obstructs the implementation of effective vaccination campaigns. Organizing these campaigns poses logistical challenges such as the recruitment, training, and payment of hundreds of vaccinators, as well as complex delivery strategies such as door-to-door home visits in rural or dangerous areas. Vaccination teams in Nigeria and Syria have also been the target of attacks from Islamic terrorist groups. More>>>
Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine conducts interdisciplinary research concerning vaccines and health promotion strategies. Learn more about our research projects.