WHO : Polio returns to Papua New Guinea after 18 years.

An outbreak of polio has been confirmed in Papua New Guinea, the World Health Organization and the government said, with the virus detected in a child 18 years after the Pacific nation was declared free of the disease.

The WHO said there was one confirmed case   -a six year old boy with lower limb weakness from Morobe province  -with the disease detected in late April, and paralysis associated with the virus confirmed in May.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the same virus was also isolated from stool specimens of two healthy children in the same community,  "representing an outbreak,"the WHO added.

''We are deeply concerned about this polio case in    Papua New Guinea, and the fact the virus is circulating,'' PNG's Health Secretary Pascoe Kase said in a statement Monday.

"Our immediate priority is to respond and prevent more children from being infected."

Steps taken to stop the spread of the highly contagious, crippling disease include conducting large-scale immunisation campaigns and strengthening surveillance systems that help detect it early.

PNG has not had a case of the disease since 1996, and was certified as  polio-free  in 2000 along with the rest of the  WHO's Western Pacific Region.

There is low police vaccine, coverage in Morobe province on PNG's northern coast, with only  61 percent of children receiving the recommended three doses, the  WHO said.

The international body added that  inadequate  sanitation  and hygiene  were also issues in the area.

The  WHO  said  the region's  isolation and the  planned immunisation  activities meant the risk  of the  virus sprawling  to  other countries was low. [Agencies]


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