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25 March 2013

Why polio is still around

Sixty years after the first successful polio vaccine trial, the disease has been wiped out in much of the world, but violence, conspiracy theories and lack of cash keep it from disappearing.

"The world is closer than ever to eradicating polio," said Oliver Rosenbauer, spokesman for the World Health Organisation's Global Polio Eradication Initiative.

The success seen in India, which has had no new cases in two years, shows that eradicating polio is "technically feasible," Rosenbauer told AFP.

"So now the question is, does the world want to do this? Does it have enough political will to do this?"

If the virus is not eliminated, the number of cases could return to a level of 200 000 new infections annually within 10 years, he warned. But efforts to end the disease face mounting risks brought on by violence against vaccine workers in the disease's last bastions.

The goal is to communicate on a local level "so they can learn more about the benefits of immunization and we can hear their concerns," said Pandak.

"The polio virus is an enemy of humankind. By eradicating it, it's a gift from this generation to all future generations."

 
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