Outbreak of polio in Europe investigated

Technical experts have been sent by the World Health Organization to Tajikistan to investigate an outbreak of seven polio cases in the country.

The outbreak, the WHO says, is the first importation of polio in the European region since Europe was certified polio-free in 2002.

A total of six technical experts from the WHO were sent to the central Asian country. They will be tasked with providing a detailed investigation of the polio cases to determine where what country the virus came from and what actions are needed to prevent any further spread.

Sona Bari, a WHO spokeswoman for the Polio Eradication Initiative, told Voice of America that the new outbreaks were a setback for the WHO's polio eradication campaign and a sober reminder for the need to vaccinate children against the crippling disease.

"Planning is already going on for three large-scale vaccination campaigns," Bari told Voice of America. "There are about 864,000 children under the age of five that we will reach with this vaccine. And, surrounding countries, particularly Uzbekistan and Kyrgyztan are being asked to step up their surveillance for acute flaccid paralysis, which is a sign of polio and to look into their immunization rates to make sure that children are adequately protected in those surrounding areas."  

Tajikistan, Bari said, is close two Afghanistan and Pakistan, two polio endemic countries. It is too soon, though, to call one of those countries the source or this latest outbreak. Genetic sequencing will be employed to determine the country of origin.