Polio outbreak in Somalia Spreads; Already 105 recorded cases
The U.N.'s humanitarian affairs office says a polio outbreak in Somalia is spreading rapidly.
In this Wednesday April 24, 2013 file photo a Somali baby receives a polio vaccine, at the Medina Maternal Child Health center in Mogadishu, Somalia.
The U.N. said Friday Aug. 16, 2013, that Somalia has 105 confirmed cases of polio, with another 10 cases confirmed in neighbouring Kenya. 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-Qaida-linked militant group al-Shabab. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)-File
"It's very worrying because it's an explosive outbreak and of course polio is a disease that is slated for eradication," said Oliver Rosenbauer, a spokesman for the Global Polio Eradication Initiative at the World Health Organization in Geneva. "In fact we're seeing more cases in this area this year than in the three endemic countries worldwide."
In a bit of good news, Rosenbauer said in a phone interview with The Associated Press that polio numbers are down in the three remaining endemic countries.
"The only way to get rid of this risk is to eradicate in the endemic countries, and there the news is actually paradoxically very good," he said.
Somalia was removed from the list of endemic polio countries in 2001, and this year's outbreak is the second since then.
It began one month after Bill Gates helped unveil a six-year plan to eradicate polio at the Global Vaccine Summit. That effort will cost $5.5 billion, three-quarters of which has already been pledged, including $1.8 billion from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
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