WHO issues update on poliovirus situation in Israel

The World Health Organization announced evidence of increasing geographic circulation of wild poliovirus type I on Thursday, estimating the risk of international spread from Israel as moderate to high.

WPV1 was detected in 67 sewage samples from 24 sampling sites in Israel between February 3 and August 4. The virus was detected in southern Israel and central Israel. The virus was also detected in the stool samples of 27 healthy children and one adult, all of whom were fully immunized for their age.

Public health authorities expanded their surveillance to all age groups, increased enterovirus surveillance and began screening aseptic meningitis cases for polio.

There are no reported cases of paralytic polio in Israel.

Israel began a supplementary immunization activity on August 5 with bivalent oral polio vaccine. A nationwide campaign was planned for Sunday for children up two the age of nine years. The objective of the SIAs is to increase mucosal immunity levels in children naive to OPV to rapidly interrupt the circulation of poliovirus.

The WHO recommended that countries with individuals who travel and come into contact with polio-affected countries should strengthen their surveillance for cases of acute flaccid paralysis. The organization also recommended that countries analyze routine immunization coverage data to identify subnational gaps to inform catch-up immunization activities.

Three countries remain endemic for indigenous WPV transmission: Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria.