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DEVELOPMENT REPORT — June 10, 2002: Campaign Against Polio - 2002-06-07

This is the VOA Special English Development Report.

In nineteen-eighty-eight, world health leaders started a campaign to end the disease polio around the world. The World Health Organization, the United Nations Children’s organization, the United States Centers for Disease Control and the group Rotary International organized the campaign. It is called the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.

In nineteen-eighty-eight, officials estimated three-hundred-fifty-thousand children around the world had polio. Recently, the W-H-O reported only five-hundred-thirty-seven new cases of polio in ten countries last year. This is the lowest rate of polio in history. It is also a sign that the campaign to end the disease has been almost a complete success.

Polio is an infectious disease caused by a virus. It can affect people at any age. But polio usually affects children under age three. The virus enters through the mouth and then grows inside the throat and intestines. Signs of polio include a high body temperature, stomach sickness, and pain in the head and neck.

Once the poliovirus becomes established in the intestines, it can spread to the blood and nervous system. As a result, victims of polio often become unable to move their bodies. This paralysis is almost always permanent. In very serious cases, the paralysis can lead to death because victims are not able to breathe.

There is no cure for polio, so the best treatment is prevention. A few drops of a powerful vaccine medicine will protect a child for life. The vaccine must be given over several years to be fully effective. Last year, international health groups gave the vaccine to more than five-hundred-seventy-five-million children in ninety-four countries. That vaccine effort is continuing.

The W-H-O wants to stop the spread of polio by the end of this year. The countries with the highest rates of polio are India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nigeria and Niger. Countries with lower rates of polio are Angola, Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, and Egypt. However, efforts to finally end the disease are being threatened by conflicts in several parts of the world. In Angola, for example, civil war has prevented vaccine medicine from reaching children.

If the campaign succeeds, polio would become the second disease in history to be ended by a medical campaign. The first disease that was ended around world was smallpox.

This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Jill Moss.