Polio breaks out in China after Pakistan experiences extreme polio outbreak

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The World Health Organization announced Tuesday that nine cases of polio have been confirmed in China, the first polio outbreak in that country since 1999. Currently, the polio virus is spreading widely through the nation of Pakistan, which is where the polio in China was thought to have originated.

Pakistan had reported 84 cases of polio as of Sept. 13, where the numbers for the same time in 2010 were 48 cases. Supplementary vaccination programs have been implemented in the last year in Pakistan, but they have all been unsuccessful, as the numbers keep going higher and higher. For that and many other reasons, the risk of polio spreading internationally – among other nations – is very high if things stay the way they are.

The Government of Pakistan has jumped in, launching a National Polio Action Plan, which will see staggered immunization days followed by further activities in high-risk union councils in 54 districts of the country.

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The World Health Organization said countries throughout Asia and the Eastern Mediterranean should be on high alert, watching for the polio virus and making sure immunizations are up to date. In addition, anyone traveling to or from Pakistan should make sure to have vaccinations and immunizations up to date.

World Health Officials report there’s a high risk of the polio virus spreading throughout China, interrupting China’s annual Haj pilgrimage.

"The WHO rates as 'high' the risk of further international spread of wild polio virus from Pakistan, particularly given the expected large-scale population movements associated with Umra and the upcoming Haj...in the coming months," the Geneva-based body said in a statement.

Haj is the main Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia that takes place every year, which is due to start in November. Umra refers to various other pilgrimages to Mecca, and those can happen any time of the year.

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