May 8, 2014
The World Health Organization this week took the unusual step of declaring a global health emergency. Reacting to the spread of polio in several countries, WHO exercised this power for only the second time since new regulations were adopted seven years ago. Why now and why is this important?
After a 25-year campaign to eliminate polio through massive deployments of teams to vaccinate hundreds of millions of children, we were close to eradicating the paralyzing virus. In February, dignitaries from around the world came together in Delhi to celebrate three years since the last confirmation of a case of WPV associated polio in India. Critical to this success have been high-quality campaigns that reached children multiple times with OPV and the development of systems for reliable surveillance and timely reporting so that the full extent of outbreaks can be determined, tracked, and understood.
WHO is reacting to the very real possibility that the disease will rapidly spread from Pakistan, Syria, and Cameroon to their neighbors and, via international travel, to the rest of the world. Based on public health data disclosed by the Ministries of Health in the affected countries in accordance with international agreements, the WHO’s declaration puts public health measures in place in these countries. These actions not only represents a welcomed aggressive stance on a re-emerging disease by the global health community, it supports the notion that gathering data and sharing it freely is in the best interests of everyone’s health.
Vigilant surveillance remains the best strategy for rapid response, and the ProMED network remains the best and most reliable provider of that vigilance. ProMED has posted 173 detailed reports on polio since 2007. No other source provides the accurate, relevant, and timely emerging infectious disease reporting that ProMED provides multiple times each day. Covering the entire One Health spectrum of human, animal, and crop plant diseases, ProMED brings you news and unique expert interpretation and context that informs you about the disease and helps you understand how it might affect you, your family, your patients, your business, and your plans. No other source keeps you so well informed on topics you need and want to know about. No other source covers the topic of infectious diseases so broadly, deeply, and internationally. No other source provides it free of charge.
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Larry Madoff, Editor
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