Polio Outbreak in Caribbean Believed Caused by Vaccine
A strain of polio virus used as a vaccine apparently has mutated and caused a rare outbreak of the paralyzing disease in the Dominican Republic and Haiti, the Washington Post reported Saturday.
Citing health officials at the Pan American Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the daily reported that the outbreak of at least four discrete cases of polio marks the first time such an event has been reported in the Western Hemisphere, where the last known incidence of the disease was identified in Peru in 1991.
Officials said the current outbreak is under control and does not pose an immediate public health threat, although it raises questions about current efforts to immunize people against the dreaded disease.
"We cannot take our lack of polio for granted," Walter Orenstein, director of the CDC's national immunization program, told the Post.
"It highlights the importance of maintaining a high level of suspicion for polio, and for assuring that our vaccination coverage is maintained."
Three polio cases were confirmed in a rural area of the Dominican Republic, and a single case in an extremely isolated hamlet in Haiti. A genetic analysis of the strains show that they are all related, suggesting that they developed when the weakened live virus used in the oral polio vaccine mutated.
In addition to the four known cases, 16 other possible cases are under study but have not yet been confirmed – WASHINGTON (AFP)
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