Somalia Polio Outbreak Is World's Worst

Thousands could have virus
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 16, 2013 11:33 AM CDT
Somalia Polio Outbreak Is World's Worst
A Somali baby receives a polio vaccine, at the Medina Maternal Child Health center in Mogadishu, Somalia on Wednesday April 24, 2013.   (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

A polio outbreak in Somalia is spreading, with 105 confirmed cases and another 10 confirmed in neighboring Kenya, the UN's humanitarian affairs office says. Health officials are responding with vaccination campaigns that have reached 4 million people since the outbreak began in May, but those health officials cannot access about 600,000 children who live in areas of Somalia controlled by the al-Qaeda-linked militant group al-Shabab. The UN says five children have suffered paralysis from the virus, a fact that indicates that there are probably thousands more children with the virus who do not have symptoms.

The "explosive" outbreak is the world's worst epidemic of the disease, and the 105 confirmed Somalia cases number more than those in all other countries of the world combined, according to WHO. Polio is considered eradicated globally except for three endemic countries: Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan. Somalia was removed from the list of endemic polio countries in 2001, but this year's outbreak is the second since then. (More polio stories.)

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