In DepthPUBLIC HEALTH

Polio outbreaks in the DRC threaten eradication effort

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Science  06 Jul 2018:
Vol. 361, Issue 6397, pp. 10-11
DOI: 10.1126/science.361.6397.10

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Summary

There's an alarming polio outbreak in the Democratic of the Congo (DRC) that you have probably never heard of. Part of the reason is that it is overshadowed by Ebola. But part is because it is caused not by the wild virus that is hanging on by a thread in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and perhaps Nigeria, but by a rare mutant derived from the weakened live virus in the oral polio vaccine, which has regained its neurovirulence and ability to spread. Public health experts have worked for months to stamp out the virus, but it keeps spreading. It has already paralyzed 29 children, and on 21 June a case was reported on the border with Uganda, far outside the known outbreak zone, heightening fears that the virus will sweep across Africa. The DRC is "absolutely" the most worrisome polio outbreak today, says Michel Zaffran, who heads the Global Polio Eradication Initiative in Geneva at the World Health Organization.