The resurgence of polio and the spread of monkeypox proves again that diseases don’t respect borders. No one is safe until we all are
We are talking again about polio – a disease that ran rampant in the 1950s, paralysing thousands of children every year. The successful introduction of polio vaccine in 1956 into the UK, and later more widely, has resulted in the elimination of this once dreaded disease from Europe and indeed most of the world. After the successful global eradication of smallpox in 1980, polio is the next human disease on the list targeted for eradication.
But for all the progress, we are not there yet. The first case of paralytic polio in almost a decade was reported in New York state in July, and a few days later vaccine-derived virus was reported to have been found in sewage in a neighbouring county. A related virus has now been reported in multiple samples of London sewage, prompting authorities in the capital to offer a polio vaccine booster dose to every child between the age of one and nine. This year Israel has had its first case of polio since 1989.
Prof Helen Bedford is professor of children’s health at UCL. This piece was co-authored by Dr David Elliman, consultant paediatrician at Great Ormond Street hospital
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