Sunday, November 6, 2011

Polio Outbreak in Angola

Angola (a country on the western coast of South Africa) recently declared a state of emergency after one 14-month-old boy tested positive for the polio virus. The case is thought to be linked to a series of 9 outbreaks in the past year that took place in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The state of emergency was declared in an effort to rapidly control the disease, and prevent an Angolan polio outbreak similar to last year's - 33 cases in one year. (This year thus far, there have only been 4.)

Even one case of polio can spread the virus to any unvaccinated individual in the area (particularly the young). It is primarily spread through contaminated food and water. Once the virus is consumed, it multiplies in the intestine, whereafter it can spread to the nervous system (causing the debilitating effects we see among polio patients).

This past year, there was a country-wide effort in Angola to immunize all children under 5, a likely cause for the incredible decrease in polio cases since last year. The vaccine is orally administered in 3-4 doses within a given year - usually an infant's 1st year.

I find this to be a somewhat motivating article. Despite the potential for a further polio outbreak, this is a case where public authorities made the right decision in declaring a state of emergency potentially preliminarily. Angola seems to be making the right choices regarding mass-immmunization (bringing back to mind the precept that the entire population has to be vaccinated to prevent disease...). If only we could get our own politicans to be so open-minded about vaccination! (uurrrrgh HPV vaccination!!!)


-Elena Higuchi

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