Time to check in on another globe-spanning epidemic. While we were all watching Ebola, polio continues—and as long as it does, it holds the possibility of surging back over the rest of the world.
A quick refresher: Polio has been the target of a very expensive and aggressive multi-national eradication campaign since 1988. By last summer, polio was endemic—that is, transmission from one person to another has never been interrupted—in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria. Very high rates of vaccination have kept the paralyzing disease from leaking over those countries’ borders to most of the rest of the world—but every once in a while, something slips through, or a country runs out of money and lets its vaccination campaigns lapse.
As a result, last year, there was still polio in seven other countries — Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Iraq, Israel, Somalia and Syria—and the World Health Organization declared an international emergency.
So, updates: Despite its ongoing civil strife, Syria has not had a polio case in a year. There has been no detection of polio virus in sewage in Israel or the West Bank or Gaza since March. It has been almost 6 months since the last polio case in Nigeria—extremely good news because that country has periodically re-infected other areas of Africa.
But: Pakistan remains a problem.