World Health Organization Declares Polio International Emergency - KFYRTV.COM - Bismarck, ND - News, Weather, Sports

World Health Organization Declares Polio International Emergency

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Earlier this week we told you about the debate among parents and physicians and whether or not children should be vaccinated against disease. And doctors say it's more important than ever to get those vaccinations done as soon as possible.

 For the first time ever, the World Health Organization has declared the spread of polio an international public health emergency.

Polio is an extremely contagious disease that can affect nerves and lead to partial or full paralysis.

"It attacks the brian stem and it can affect the child's ability even to breathe," says Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Kent Martin.  

The disease was eliminated from the Western Hemisphere in the '90s. But now, the World Health Organization says it could be making a comeback.

For countries that are currently exporting wild polio virus, and this includes Pakistan, Cameroon and the Syrian Arab Republic it is the assessment that these pose the greatest risk of further wild virus exportations in 2014," says Dr. Bruce Aylward of the World Health Organization.

Even though there are no confirmed cases of polio in the United States right now, health officials say because international travel has become so common, the disease can spread even faster.

"They come to the U.S., and they go to the bathroom, and they don't wash their hands good. They contaminate the doorknob in the airport, and then somebody comes along and touches that and accidentally puts their hand in their mouth or on their nose, and they've got the virus," says Martin.

If a polio case was confirmed in the United States, health department employees say those affected would need to be quarantined immediately.

"Make sure that that person did not go to work or school. They should stay home," says Amy Schwartz of the North Dakota Department of Health. "We would check to see which contacts they have and we would recommend those who had contact with them be vaccinated."

Even though an outbreak in the U.S. is unlikely, there is still no cure for polio. So, health officials say taking the proper precautions, like vaccinating children, will help prevent the disease from spreading. 


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