China vaccinates 4.5 million against polio

China recently vaccinated approximately 4.5 million children and young adults in its Xinjiang province against polio in an effort to end an outbreak that has paralyzed 17 people and killed one.

The outbreak is the first in China since 1999. Scientists say that the polio strain is the same as one that originated in Pakistan. Its emergence in China marks the latest in a series of setbacks to a global campaign to end the disease, which is now considered to be endemic in Afghanistan, India, Pakistan and Nigeria, according to Reuters.

"Even if they don't come down with any symptoms (carriers), by giving them polio vaccine we make that person less infectious," Oliver Rosenbauer, a World Health Organization spokesman for the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, said, Reuters reports.

All of the Chinese cases occurred in the Hotan prefecture in Xinjiang province between July and September. The WHO assumes that every case it finds means that there are 199 more infected with the virus that are asymptomatic.

"We are sensitizing disease surveillance in large hospitals to look for any child or adult displaying polio-like symptoms. We'll look out for new cases, we hope there won't be," Rosenbauer said, according to Reuters.

Polio initially causes flu-like symptoms in victims, but can cause paralysis within 24 to 72 hours. There is no cure and doctors can only treat the symptoms.