Indonesian polio threatens global health

The number of Indonesians stricken by polio climbed to 225, the U.N. health agency said Tuesday, with authorities reporting the country's first adult victim of the crippling disease.

Most of the victims came from parts of Java island, where there have been many reported cases already, said Sari Setiogi, spokeswoman for the World Health Organization. The only adult victim, a 25-year-old male, became the fourth victim from Jakarta, Setiogi said.

He has since died and authorities are investigating whether his death is linked to polio, she said.

"The incident shows how serious and rapid polio virus could harm human life," Setiogi is quoted as saying by the AP. "Therefore as there is no cure for polio, immunization is the only way to prevent someone being exposed to the virus."

The polio outbreak - Indonesia's first in 10 years - has prompted authorities to vaccinate up to 6.5 million children. But health officials acknowledged earlier this month they missed a million children, whose parents stayed away following erroneous media reports that the vaccine caused the death of some children, the AP informs.

UN's children agency UNICEF carried out a research, reporting Indonesia's recent polio outbreak which has infected 225 children poses a global health threat with planned vaccination drives crucial to averting a crisis.

Indonesia detected its first case of polio since 1996 in April. It is the 16th country to be reinfected by the virus in the past year, but has recorded the highest rate of new cases, UNICEF's David Hipgrave said, according to Forbes.

"In Indonesia's case, because it's such an enormous country, because the outbreak has been quite substantial ... there's an enormous concern that if the virus is established here (it) will become an exporter of the virus to other countries, in the region or globally," he told Agence France-Presse.

Indonesian laborers and fishermen travelling to Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and the Middle East, often informally, could pass on the virus to those areas, he warned.

"People are very concerned that if the virus is reestablished here, that it will become a regional risk and potentially a global risk."

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