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WHO declares polio a public health emergency

BMJ 2014; 348 doi: (Published 06 May 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g3124
  1. Anne Gulland
  1. 1London

The World Health Organization has declared the spread of polio a global public health emergency, which, if left unchecked, could derail efforts to eradicate the disease.1

The 14 members of WHO’s international health regulations emergency committee met at the end of April alongside representatives from the nine states where wild poliovirus has been found in the past 12 months: Afghanistan, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Israel, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, and Syria.

The committee presented its findings to Margaret Chan, WHO’s director general, informing her that the cross border spread of wild poliovirus in 2014 was an “extraordinary event.” On 5 May Chan declared the situation a global public health emergency under international health regulations. The last such declaration was made in 2009 over the H1N1 influenza pandemic.

Bruce Aylward, WHO’s assistant director general for polio eradication and emergencies, …

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