The United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday that although mostly eradicated around the globe, the polio virus is much more likely to spread in countries affected by conflict, as witnessed recently in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
During an emergency meeting, WHO representatives said Pakistan has become the 10th country infected with polio and at least one case of the disease has been exported to nearby Afghanistan.
“Although the risk of new international spread from the nine other infected Member States appears to have declined, the possibility of international spread still remains a global threat worsened by the expansion of conflict-affected areas, particularly in the Middle East and Central Africa,” WHO representatives said.
Areas particularly at risk for the spread of polio include Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, Nigeria, Syria, Somalia, Iraq, Israel and Ethiopia.
The chance of polio spreading increases conflict negatively impacts the delivery of health service, including vaccines for areas at-risk for polio.
Polio is an illness that mostly impacts young children. The disease damages the nervous system and causes paralysis. Symptoms include headache, stiffness in the neck, vomiting, fever, fatigue and pain in the limbs.
The virus travels from person to person usually through the fecal-oral route or by contact with a contaminated object.
There is currently no cure for polio.