Suspected case of polio discovered in Venezuela

The Western Hemisphere has been free of polio since 1994. However, a child in Venezuela has been diagnosed with a symptom of the disease. According to the WHO, polio was eliminated in the country in 1989, but, in a recent statement the organisation says that “an acute flaccid paralysis case is currently being investigated” in the state of Delta Amacuro, Venezuela.

They added that they are still awaiting lab results and that “final results are expected over the coming weeks. Acute flaccid paralysis is caused by a number of different casualties, poliovirus being just one of them.” Polio is highly infectious, and in some cases can lead to permanent paralysis. It mainly affects young children and is transmitted through human contact, or through food and water.

Vaccination programmes for polio run in some countries and are generally safe and effective. However, this region of Venezuela is one of the poorest and this particular child hadn’t been vaccinated. There are also economic problems in the country, as well as chronic medical shortages. Therefore, many citizens rely on charities and non-government organisations for medicine and health services.

Dr. Jose Manuel Olivares, a radiologist and a National Assembly congressman who heads the Committee on Social Development said that the potential return of polio after 30 years is “unacceptable”. He added: “This and the comeback of diphtheria and measles, is the result of a serious deficiency in the Immunization Plan.”

Dr. Julio Castro, from the Institute of Tropical Medicine at Central University of Venezuela, said “If it was a wild virus, it’s very significant, there is no evidence of wild cases of polio in the Americas for the past 30 years or so. My feeling is that most of those children are not receiving vaccine, and we are (seeing) a modified-vaccine virus. And the alarming thing is that there’s propagation, which means that the population there is not ready to tackle this disease, and the virus could spread very quickly.”