In Bangladesh found first polio case after six years

Bangladesh has discovered its first polio case in nearly six years and will resume mass vaccinations against the crippling disease next month to try to keep it from spreading, the health minister said Friday. Laboratory tests confirmed that a 9-year-old girl in eastern Chandpur district has polio, Health and Family Welfare Minister Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain said.

"This is an emergency and we will do our best to completely eradicate the virus," Hossain said. Bangladesh 's last mass vaccination campaign against polio was in 2004, when more than 22 million children were vaccinated. The country has been polio-free since August 2000 because of extensive vaccination programs, according to the government and the World Health Organization.

A team of WHO experts met with Hossain late Thursday and promised to help tackle the virus. "We are worried," said Arun Thapa, WHO's regional adviser for polio in Southeast Asia , who investigated the case. "The virus has had time to spread." He said there are no other suspected cases at the moment, but that could change quickly.

Polio is spread when people mostly children under 5 who are not vaccinated come into contact with the feces of those with the virus, often through water. The virus attacks the central nervous system, causing paralysis, muscular atrophy and deformation and, in some cases, death. Only about one in 200 people infected ever gets sick. However, those who do not display symptoms are still capable of spreading the disease to others.

Last week, health workers in Bangladesh vaccinated 215 children under age 5 in the girl's village as a precaution, local health official Abdul Mannan told The Associated Press.

Mannan said the girl, who developed signs of paralysis early this year, was infected despite taking 12 doses of polio vaccine during previous vaccination drives. He said in January she visited a relative in southern Pirojpur district, where she came in contact with a family who had recently visited India 's Uttar Pradesh state.

Thapa, however, said the family had no records to confirm if the girl had been vaccinated against the disease. He said samples confirmed the type of polio that infected the girl is genetically similar to the virus circulating in Uttar Pradesh, where the disease is endemic. WHO says polio is endemic in three other countries Afghanistan , Nigeria and Pakistan .

However, it is present in eight other countries including Yemen , Indonesia and Somaliawhere it had previously been eradicated but was imported again from one of the endemic countries. Last year, some 1,880 people were infected with polio worldwide, down from more than 350,000 before 1988, when WHO launched a massive anti-polio campaign, reports the AP.

N.U.

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