Polio Paralyzes Two in An Ukranian Outbreak

Two Ukrainian children have been hospitalized with paralysis caused by polio this week. The World Health Organization sites this incident as “high risk,” and the chance of the disease spreading throughout the country is alarmingly high. The children, four and ten months old, were both residents of the South-Western Ukrainian region, near the borders of Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and Poland.

Reports say that the outbreak came from a weakened form of the virus that is included in the vaccine, which can sometimes mutate and spread if immunization levels are insufficient. In the Ukraine, only about 50% of the population is properly immunized, which gave this virus a higher risk of developing.

Is this Outbreak Dangerous?

A spokesperson of the Polio Eradication Initiative at the WHO, Oliver Rosenbaum, gave a statement saying that the virus is now “a dangerous strain (…). [there] are two cases of paralysis, but for sure they are not the only ones. That’s one of the big dangers of the disease, there are a lot of asymptomatic cases.”

Why did the disease mutate?

The figures show that wild polio leads to paralysis once in every 200 cases of infection. While the strain contained in the vaccine has a much lower chance of causing paralysis, the levels of immunization in the region are so low, the disease was able to persist and evolve into a full-blown infection. According to the WHO, the rate of vaccination against polio among children under a year old is only 14.1% due to a shortage of vaccines. This is due to factors such as the weakened economy, population displacement and a general distrust of immunization.

Usually, children are given a mild dose of the live virus when they are vaccinated in order to encourage the immune system to defend against it. However, the virus remains in the body for some time before it is fully expelled. If the period of circulation becomes extended, it gives a chance for the disease to mutate.

In their report, the WHO suggests that everyone visiting the region is fully vaccinated and that all residing citizens receive an extra shot of the polio vaccine to prevent any chances of infection. The representatives of the organization urged quick and efficient control of this outbreak, giving the Ukrainian ministry of health all available support and providing immunization activities with the oral polio vaccine.

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