Grave concerns have been voiced over increases in wild poliovirus (WPV1) cases, with experts warning the risk of international spread of the virus is at its highest since 2014.
Last month, the World Health Organization’s (WHO's) Director-General convened the 22nd meeting of the Emergency Committee under the International Health Regulations (2005) (IHR) regarding the international spread of poliovirus.
The emergency committee said it was “gravely concerned” by significant increases in WPV1 cases globally, with 73 cases reported to date so far this year compared to 15 for the same period in 2018. Most of the increase is due to the ongoing outbreaks in Pakistan, where transmission continues to be widespread, it said. The committee noted that based on sequencing of viruses, there were new and recent instances of international spread of viruses from Pakistan to Afghanistan, in addition to the earlier reported exportation of virus to Iran. Meanwhile, the committee said the risk of a major upsurge of cases is growing in Afghanistan.
A rising risk of circulating vaccine-derived polioviruses (cVDPV) spread was also highlighted by the committee.
The members unanimously agreed that the risk of international spread of poliovirus remains a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).