MEXICO CITY (Reuters) -The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said Wednesday that Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Peru are at very high risk for the reintroduction of polio, as regional vaccine coverage for the disease has fallen to about 79%, the lowest since 1994.
Earlier this month, New York Governor Kathy Hochul declared a disaster emergency in a bid to accelerate efforts to vaccinate residents against polio after the virus was detected in wastewater samples taken in four counties. Cases have also been detected in London and Jerusalem.
Polio can cause irreversible paralysis in some cases, but it can be prevented by a vaccine first made available in 1955. While there is no known cure, three injections of the vaccine provide nearly 100% immunity.
Public health officials have said vaccine hesitancy has played a role in the drop in polio vaccinations, while COVID-19 caused the worst disruption to routine immunization in a generation, according to the United Nations.
The disease terrified parents around the world for the first half of the 20th century. Affecting mainly children under five, it is often asymptomatic but can also cause symptoms including fever and vomiting. Around one in 200 infections leads to irreversible paralysis, and among those patients, up to 10% die.
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