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A girl receives polio vaccine drops at a government dispensary in a Karachi slum, Pakistan in this October 21, 2014 file photo. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro/Files

A girl receives a polio vaccination outside her house in Yemen’s capital Sanaa in this November 9, 2015 file photo. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah/Files

By Kate Kelland

LONDON, (Reuters) – In a huge immunization effort in 150 countries, health teams will on Sunday launch what they hope will be the final push against polio.

Stopping transmission of the contagious viral disease that has infected millions is possible within a year, experts say. And full, official, global eradication could be declared by the end of this decade.

First, however, the vaccine that has successfully fought polio for more than 30 years needs to be switched for one that targets the last few areas of risk.

It won’t be easy, or cheap, but the World Health Organization’s director of polio eradication, Michel Zaffran, says failure now – when there have only been 12 cases worldwide this year, in Pakistan and Afghanistan – means the virus could spread across borders again.

Success would make polio only the second human disease to be eradicated since smallpox was banished in 1980.

“Taking our foot off the pedal now could mean polio will within a few years spread straight back into large parts of the world and create 100,000 or 200,000 cases,” Zaffran told Reuters. “The job has not been done and will not be done until we have fully eradicated the virus.”

A man suffering from polio crawls outside a row of closed shops in Siliguri, India in this December 8, 2006 file photo. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri/Files


For the endgame in polio to succeed, a coordinated and complex vaccine switch is crucial.

Until now, many countries have been using a shot that protects against the three types of wild polio virus – type 1, type 2 and type 3 – but type 2 polio transmission has been stopped since 1999, meaning immunizing against it now makes no sense.

In rare cases it also poses a risk that the weakened type 2 virus in the vaccine can seep into circulation and cause “vaccine-derived” polio infections.

So from April 17 to May 1, some 150 countries will engage in a synchronized switch to a bivalent, or two-strain, vaccine that contains no type 2 virus but targets types 1 and 3.

It’s a massive undertaking and a major step towards eradication, says Zaffran. “We’re entering into uncharted territory. This has never been done before. But there’s no going back now.”

That’s partly because polio vaccine manufacturers – among them France’s Sanofi Pasteur – have moved production to the bivalent shot and would find it tricky, costly, and time-consuming to reverse that move.

Anil Dutta, a vaccine expert at British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline, which also makes polio shots, is looking beyond eradication to 2019 or 2020, when all “live” oral polio vaccines need to be discontinued.

Then the world will switch again, to “inactivated” polio vaccine, or IPV, to further reduce any risk of causing disease through immunization. Scaling up IPV production to meet the needs of the entire world takes years, he warns, and work must start now to avoid potential supply concerns.


But prediction has never been easy in the fight to wipe out polio, and health authorities have missed targets along the way.

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative, launched in 1988, originally aimed to end all transmission of the disease by 2000.

And while there has been a 99 percent reduction in cases worldwide since the GPEI launch, fighting the last 1 percent of polio has been far tougher than expected.

In 2013, the GPEI said the global fight against polio would require $5.5 billion in funding, and more will be needed beyond that to keep a lid on the disease.

The virus, which invades the nervous system and can cause irreversible paralysis within hours, spreads rapidly among children, especially in unsanitary conditions in war-torn regions, refugee camps and areas where healthcare is limited.

In Pakistan and Afghanistan, the last two countries where polio currently remains endemic, conflict and propaganda have hampered progress, and in the past posed risks to others.

The campaign to eliminate polio in Pakistan is fraught with risk, with Islamist militants attacking health teams they accuse of being Western spies. A polio worker was shot and wounded in February and in January a suicide bomber killed 15 people outside a polio eradication center in the city of Quetta.

In 2011, a polio virus from Pakistan re-infected China, which had been polio free for more than a decade.

In 2013, the disease re-emerged in Syria after a 14-year absence, prompting the need for a vast and expensive regional emergency vaccination campaign.

And last year, cases of type 2 vaccine-derived polio posed new threats in Ukraine and Mali.

David Salisbury, an immunization specialist and associate fellow at Britain’s Chatham House Centre on Global Health Security, says the last 1 percent is a “very long tail” on a stubborn epidemic.

“The original date for interruption of transmission was 2000. The next target was 2014 and it’s currently 2016,” Salisbury told Reuters, adding that even with case numbers as low as they are now, “2016 may be optimistic”.

Liam Donaldson, head of the Independent Monitoring Board of the GPEI, agrees that celebrating the expected extinction of polio virus “would not just be premature, it would be folly”.

“Polio is still out there,” he told a meeting in London. “(It) has fought back with a vengeance at every stage of the game. And it’s still fighting.”

(Reporting by Kate Kelland; editing by Giles Elgood)


Photo by Pixabay

Upcoming medical colleges in Uttar Pradesh will be named after saints and sages

The new medical colleges being opened in Uttar Pradesh will be named after saints and sages.

The state government has issued an order naming four district hospitals that are being converted into medical colleges.

These district hospitals are in Bijnor, Fatehpur, Chandauli, and Siddharth Nagar.

The Bijnor medical college has been named after Mahatma Vidur, a philosopher during the Mahabharata era and uncle of the Pandavas and Kauravas.

The Chandauli medical college has been named after Baba Keenaram, said to be the founder of the Aghori sect.

The Siddharth Nagar district hospital will be called Madhav Prasad Tripathi Medical College after the BJP politician from the region. Tripathi, popularly known as Madhav Babu, was also the first Uttar Pradesh BJP chief. He was elected MP from Domariyaganj in 1977, besides being two times Jan Sangh MLA and also a member of the UP legislative council.

The Fatehpur hospital has been named Amar Shaheed Jodha Singh Ataiya Thakur Dariyawn Singh Medical College, after the freedom fighter of 1857.

It is said that he was among the first to use Guerrilla warfare against the British, as taught by freedom fighter Tatya Tope.

Meanwhile, according to official sources, the medical college in Deoria will be named after Maharishi Devraha Baba and the medical college of Ghazipur in the name of Maharishi Vishwamitra.

The medical college of Mirzapur will be in the name of Maa Vindhyavasini, the medical college of Pratapgarh in the name of Dr. Sonelal Patel and the medical college of Etah will be named after Veerangana Avantibai Lodhi. (IANS/JB)

Keywords: Medical Colleges, Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath, India, Politics

Photo by Wikimedia Commons

Photo of Indian cricket team on the ground

Former Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq has picked India as the favourite to win the ongoing ICC Men's T20 World Cup in Oman and United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Inzamam feels that the Virat Kohli-led India have a greater chance of winning the trophy as the conditions in the Gulf nations are similar to the subcontinent, which makes India the most dangerous side in the event, according to Inzamam.

"In any tournament, it cannot be said for certain that a particular team will win' It's all about how much chance do they have of winning it. In my opinion, India have a greater chance than any other team of winning this tournament, especially in conditions like these. They have experienced T20 players as well," said Inzamam on his YouTube channel.

He said more than the Indian batters, the bowlers have a lot of experience of playing in the conditions. The Indian Premier League (IPL) was played recently in UAE and most of the Indian bowlers did well in that leg.

Inzy heaped praises on the Men in Blue for the confident manner in which they chased the target against Australia on a challenging track without needing Kohli's batting prowess.

"India played their warm-up fixture against Australia rather comfortably. On subcontinent pitches like these, India are the most dangerous T20 side in the world. Even today, if we see the 155 runs they chased down, they did not even need Virat Kohli to do so," he added.

Though he did not pick any favourite, Inzamam termed the India-Pakistan clash in the Super 12 on October 24 as the 'final before the final' and said the team winning it will go into the remaining matches high on morale,

"The match between India and Pakistan in the Super 12s is the final before the final. No match will be hyped as much as this one. Even in the 2017 Champions Trophy, India and Pakistan started and finished the tournament by facing each other, and both the matches felt like finals. The team winning that match will have their morale boosted and will also have 50 percent of pressure released from them," Inzamam added. (IANS/JB)

Keywords: India, Pakistan, Sports, ICC T20 World Cup, UAE.

Photo by Diana Akhmetianova on Unsplash

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man in white crew neck t-shirt Moisturising the body in the morning sets your skin up to face countless irritants and environmental factors during the day. | Photo by The Creative Exchange on Unsplash

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