WHO Emergency Committee says spread of polio remains public health emergency


  • Mary Corcoran
  • Univadis Medical News
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Experts have voiced serious concerns over the rising risk of spread of poliovirus and have unanimously agreed that the risk of international spread of the virus remains a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).

The World Health Organization's Emergency Committee, under the International Health Regulations (2005) (IHR), regarding the international spread of poliovirus met last month (May) to review the data on wild poliovirus (WPV1) and circulating vaccine-derived polioviruses (cVDPV). 

It raised concerns that progress made in recent years in tackling the rising risk of spread of WPV1 “appears to be reversing”, with the committee’s assessed risk of international spread the highest since 2014 when the PHEIC was declared. This decision was based on a number of factors including the rising number of WPV1 cases in Pakistan; rising proportion of environmental samples that are positive for WPV1 in Afghanistan and Pakistan; and increasing community and individual resistance to the polio programme. 

Concerns were also voiced over the rising risk of cVDPV spread, falling type 2 poliovirus immunity, weak routine immunisation and population movement and surveillance gaps. 

The Committee recommended the extension of temporary recommendations to reduce the spread of poliovirus for a further three months. These include country-specific recommendations for vaccination.