Chinese polio outbreak kills one, infects eight more

A recent polio outbreak in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region has claimed the life of one infant and infected eight others.

A spokesman for China’s Ministry of Health reported that the eight children are still receiving treatment for the disease, which can cause irreversible paralysis, but are out of immediate danger, according to Xinhua.

All nine confirmed cases were found in Xinjiang’s Hotan Prefecture and, according to the MOH, the illness has not spread outside of the area.

Chinese public health officials reported the cases to the World Health Organization. The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the WHO believes the virus originally came from Pakistan, where polio is endemic, Xinhua reports.

The WHO used gene sequencing to determine that the virus found in Xinjiang is 99 percent similar to the wild poliovirus that caused an outbreak in Pakistan in 2009.

The MOH has sent three teams of experts, led by Health Minister Chen Zhu and his deputy Yin Li, to Xinjiang in order to study the situation firsthand. An additional 90 specialists from around China have been sent to assist in surveillance and immunization efforts.

"Through strengthened immunization in key areas, a barrier will be established to block the transmission of the poliovirus," MOH spokesman Deng Haihua said, Xinhua reports.

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