“Polio Was Almost Eradicated. This Year It Staged a Comeback”

Apoorva Mandavilli

By Apoorva Mandavilli

Aug. 18, 2022 for The New York Times

“Before its discovery in New York’s wastewater, the virus made a series of ominous appearances around the world.

“At the beginning of this year, there was a thrum of excitement among global health experts: Eradication of polio, a centuries-old foe that has paralyzed legions of children around the globe, seemed tantalizingly close.

“Pakistan, one of only two countries where wild poliovirus still circulates, had not recorded cases in more than a year. Afghanistan had reported only four.

“But eradication is an uncompromising goal. The virus must disappear from every part of the world and stay gone, regardless of wars, political disinterest, funding gaps or conspiracy theories. New signs of the virus in a single country can derail the effort.

“In polio’s case, there were several ominous setbacks.

“Malawi in February announced its first case in 30 years, a 3-year-old girl who became paralyzed following infection with a virus that appeared to be from Pakistan. Pakistan itself went on to report 14 cases, eight of them in a single month this spring.

“In March, Israel reported its first case since 1988. Then, in June, British authorities declared an “incident of national concern” when they discovered the virus in sewage. By the time New York City detected the virus in wastewater last week, polio eradication seemed as elusive as ever.

“It’s a poignant and stark reminder that polio-free countries are not really polio-risk free,” said Dr. Ananda Bandyopadhyay, deputy director for polio at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the largest supporter of polio eradication efforts.

“The virus is always “a plane ride away,” he added.

“Polio is a highly contagious and sometimes deadly enemy, capable of ravaging the nervous system and causing paralysis within hours. Those who recover could relapse and become seriously ill years later…”

Article in The New York Times

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