For most Americans, polio is a concern relegated to the past. The crippling disease once plagued so many, including President Franklin D. Roosevelt, but in the decades since vaccines were developed in the 1950’s, the condition has been eradicated in the United States. The disease is still active in a handful of places, however, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, and parts of Nigeria.
Now, according to reports by Reuters, polio cases are on the rise in Pakistan and appear to be linked to a strong anti-vaccination policy by the Taliban, which maintains a presence along the country’s northern border.
Because of the highly infectious nature of the disease, public health officials fear polio, unabated by vaccines, is spreading from isolated villages into more densely populated cities. In turn, the condition could continue to spread further outward and some experts believe the anti-vaccination policies could even threaten to derail global progress against the disease.
For their part, the World Health Organization (WHO) has expressed concern, calling attention to the critical need for continued vaccination worldwide.
“Because the virus spreads from person to person, the World Health Organization says as long as any child remains infected, children everywhere are at risk,” warns the Reuters article.
This is a story to watch, as the response could influence the larger eradication efforts in the region and possibly around the world.