Polio Hits Venezuela For The First Time In 30 Years Amid Healthcare Crisis


The first case of polio is reported in Venezuela nearly 30 years after the disease was declared eradicated.

The Pan-American Health Organization says the affected child, who did not receive the vaccine, lives in the impoverished state of Delta Amacuro.

Polio Hits Venezuela

Polio or poliomyelitis is a highly infectious and irreversible disease that attacks the nervous system, according to World Health Organization. Fecal contamination through poor hygiene and sanitation allows the spread of poliovirus. If there are enough individuals vaccinated in an area, however, the virus eventually dies out.

The eastern part of Delta Amacuro reportedly has declining rates of basic vaccine coverage at 67 percent, based on a report from a local watchdog group.

"The government is not approving the money for the vaccines. This situation is unfortunate but we saw it coming, because we've been denouncing for years that there are not enough vaccines," said Manuela Bolivar, a member of the country's parliament.

As of May, nine cases of wild poliovirus were reported globally, including those in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Venezuela recorded its last case of acute poliomyelitis in 1989.

"Polio can be prevented through immunization. Polio vaccine, given multiple times, almost always protects a child for life. The development of effective vaccines to prevent paralytic polio was one of the major medical breakthroughs of the 20th century," WHO said.

Other Health Crises

Venezuela is also plagued with a measles outbreak, which saw an 85 percent increase in all cases across Latin America and the Caribbean in the past year.

Venezuela reported the highest incidence of measles, including 35 deaths in 2017. Aside from shortage in vaccines and medicines, Venezuela's health system experiences difficulties in access to public health records.

Bolivar said the local health authorities failed to immediately inform PAHO that a case of polio was detected. International health regulations require hospitals to report this type of incident within 24 hours.

The comeback case of poliovirus is discovered in the Warao communities, an indigenous group that lives in the Orinoco Delta. A 2012 study reported that the Warao were largely affected by an HIV epidemic. About 10 percent of the community is found infected with the virus that causes AIDS.

Nature Of Poliovirus

About 72 in 100 people who get infected with poliovirus will show symptoms. These include a sore throat, fever, nausea, headache, stomach pain, and tiredness.

A relatively smaller population of people infected with poliovirus will progress into more severe life-threatening conditions such as paresthesia, meningitis, and paralysis.

Between 2 and 10 percent of individuals with polio-induced paralysis die because the virus affects the muscles that regulate breathing, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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