Four diagnosed with polio in China

Four infants in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region were recently diagnosed with polio, a once prevalent disease that can cause irreversible paralysis.

Xinjiang’s regional health department announced that the patients, ranging in age from four months to two years, are all from the Hotan Prefecture, according to Xinhua.net. Two are from Hotan city and the other two from outlying areas. The cases were reported from between July 3 to July 17.

Two of the infants remain in stable condition in local hospitals, but the other two were treated and recently released.

According to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the virus was confirmed by the World Health Organization to have reached the country from Pakistan.

The center announced that WHO gene sequencing had determined that the virus bore a 99 percent resemblance to a wild poliovirus that was behind a 2009 outbreak in that country, according to Xinhua.net.

The Chinese Ministry of Health recently sent a team of experts to the region to assist local health officials in stopping the spread of the illness.

Polio is a viral disease that affects the brain and spinal cord. One in 200 infections generally lead to paralysis, usually in the legs, Xinhua.net reports.

Polio is most common in children under the age of four. Before the infections, China was believed to have been free of polio for over a decade. The Xinjiang borders three of the four countries of the world in which polio is considered endemic - Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. Nigeria is the fourth.