- LONDON Polio, the dreaded
paralyzing disease stamped out in the industrialized world, is spreading
in Nigeria. And health officials say in some cases, it's caused by the
vaccine used to fight it.
- In July, the World Health Organization issued a warning
that this vaccine-spread virus might extend beyond Africa. So far, 124
Nigerian children have been paralyzed this year - about twice those afflicted
- The polio problem is just the latest challenge to global
health authorities trying to convince wary citizens that vaccines can save
them from dreaded disease. For years, myths have abounded about vaccines
- that they were the Western world's plan to sterilize Africans or give
them AIDS. The sad polio reality fuels misguided fears and underscores
the challenges authorities face using a flawed vaccine.
- Nigeria and most other poor nations use an oral polio
vaccine because it's cheaper, easier, and protects entire communities.
- But it is made from a live polio virus - albeit weakened
- which carries a small risk of causing polio for every million or so doses
given. In even rarer instances, the virus in the vaccine can mutate into
a deadlier version that ignites new outbreaks.
- The vaccine used in the United States and other Western
nations is given in shots, which use a killed virus that cannot cause polio.
- So when WHO officials discovered a polio outbreak in
Nigeria was sparked by the polio vaccine itself, they assumed it would
be easier to stop than a natural "wild" virus.
- They were wrong.
- In 2007, health experts reported that amid Nigeria's
ongoing outbreak of wild polio viruses, 69 children had also been paralyzed
in a new outbreak caused by the mutation of a vaccine's virus.
- Back then, WHO said the vaccine-linked outbreak would
be swiftly overcome - yet two years later, cases continue to mount. They
have since identified polio cases linked to the vaccine dating back as
far as 2005.
- It is a worrying development for officials who hope to
end polio epidemics in India and Africa by the end of this year, after
missing several earlier deadlines. "It's very disturbing," said
Dr. Bruce Aylward, who heads the polio department at the World Health Organization.
- This year, the number of polio cases caused by the vaccine
has doubled: 124 children have so far been paralyzed, compared to 62 in
2008, out of about 42 million children vaccinated. For every case of paralysis,
there are hundreds of other children who don't develop symptoms, but pass
on the disease.
- When Nigerian leaders suspended polio vaccination in
2003, believing the vaccine would sterilize their children and infect them
with HIV, Nigeria exported polio to nearly two dozen countries worldwide,
making it as far away as Indonesia.
- Nigeria resumed vaccinations in 2004 after tests showed
the vaccine was not contaminated with estrogen, anti-fertility agents or
- Experts have long believed epidemics unleashed by a vaccine's
mutated virus wouldn't last since the vaccine only contains a weakened
virus strain - but that assumption is coming under pressure. Some experts
now say that once viruses from vaccines start circulating they can become
just as dangerous as wild viruses.
- "The only difference is that this virus was originally
in a vaccine vial," said Olen Kew, a virologist at the U.S. Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention.
- The oral polio vaccine used in Nigeria and elsewhere
contains a mild version of the live virus. Children who have been vaccinated
pass the virus into the water supply through urine or feces. Other children
who then play in or drink that water pick up the vaccine's virus, which
gives them some protection against polio.
- But in rare instances, as the virus passes through unimmunized
children, it can mutate into a strain dangerous enough to ignite new outbreaks,
particularly if immunization rates in the rest of the population are low.
- Kew said genetic analysis proves mutated viruses from
the vaccine have caused at least seven separate outbreaks in Nigeria.
- Though Nigeria's coverage rates have improved, up to
15 percent of children in the north still haven't been vaccinated against
polio. To eradicate the disease, officials need to reach about 95 percent
of the population.
- Nigeria's vaccine-linked outbreak underlines the need
to stop using the oral polio vaccine as soon as possible, since it can
create the very epidemics it was designed to stop, experts say. WHO is
researching other vaccines that might work better, but none is on the horizon.
- Until a better vaccine is ready, WHO and U.S. CDC officials
say the oral vaccine is the best available tool to eradicate polio and
that when inoculation rates are nearly 100 percent it works fine.
- "Nigeria is almost a case study in what happens
when you don't follow the recommendations," Kew said.
- Since WHO and partners began their attempt to rid the
world of polio in 1988, officials have slashed the disease's incidence
by more than 99 percent.
- But numerous deadlines have been missed and the number
of cases has been at a virtual standstill since 2000. Critics have also
wondered whether it is time to give up, and donors may be sick of continuing
to fund a program with no clear endgame.
- "Eradication is a gamble," said Scott Barrett,
an economist at Columbia University who has studied polio policies. "It's
all or nothing ... and there is a very real risk this whole thing may fall
- Aside from Nigeria, polio persists in a handful of other
countries, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Chad, Angola and Sudan.
- Aylward agreed the Nigeria situation was another unwelcome
hurdle, but was confident eradication was possible. "We still have
a shot," he said. "We're throwing everything at it including
the kitchen sink."
- Patricia Doyle, PhD
- Hello Jeff: Here we go again, polio virus outbreak as
a result of polio vaccine. Polio could be cut down or wiped out, not by
vaccine, but by removal of sewage from water and environment. Period!
Polio lives harmlessly in our guts and is not problematic until it gets
into drinking water, soil etc as a result of poor sanitation.
- So why waste the money on mass vaccination campaigns
and put that money into sanitation?
- Oh, then the Polio virus won't be infecting people in
the third world and everyone will figure out that Polio vaccine campaigns
are shams. We didn't need Polio vaccine in the US or first world because
in the early 1950s we were beginning to remove sewage from drinking water
and swimming areas.
- I worry that one of these mutated Polio viruses will
mutate so much that it might someday evade vaccine of those vaccinated
many decades ago and cause a major global pandemic of Polio. If only,
the WHO had simply concentrated on sanitation and not vaccine.
- Proper hand-washing also combats Polio outbreaks. People
who do not wash their hands after using the bathroom serve to spread Polio
- To recap, good sanitation and hygiene are more important
to combating Polio than vaccine.
- Patricia A. Doyle DVM, PhD Bus Admin, Tropical Agricultural
Economics Univ of West Indies Please visit my "Emerging Diseases"
message board at: http://www.emergingdisease.org/phpbb/index.php Also my
new website: http://drpdoyle.tripod.com/ Zhan le Devlesa tai sastimasa
Go with God and in Good Health
- Gayle Eversole - The Leaflady
- In Canada in the 50s, 60s when polio was a big issue,
MDs were curing it with iodine. This surely is a very inexpensive way
to address the current issue if one could get this information to the right
places. Here is more... http://naturalhealthnews.blogspot.com/2009/08/polio-
- Gayle Eversole, DHom, PhD, MH, NP, ND
- Founder and Director, Creating Health Institute and The
Oake Centre for natural health education
- Creator of ADVENTURX, the original xtreme sports supplement
- visit us at Natural Health News, Natural Notes and
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