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WHO declared South-East Asia region polio-free

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared South-East Asia region as polio-free region. The certification is being hailed as a historic milestone in the global fight to eradicate the deadly virus. It came after, when WHO certified India officially polio-free after the country went three years with no new cases of the illness.

  • India embarked on the programme to eradicate polio 19 years ago in 1995, when the disease used to cripple more than 50,000 children in the country every year. Since January 2011, India has been polio free nation.
  • Southeast Asia is the fourth of six WHO regions to officially eradicate the disease, which means 80 % of the world’s population now lives in a polio-free area.
  • Other WHO Regions that are certified as polio-free: the Region of the Americas (1994), the Western Pacific Region(2000) and the European Region (2002).
  • Though, the disease is still endemic in Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan.
  • Sri Lanka, Maldives and Bhutan have been free of the virus for more than 15 years.
  • Member states in the WHO’s Southeast Asia Region: Bangladesh, Bhutan, South Korea, India,Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Timor-Leste.
  • The polio-free tag does not mean the end of polio vaccination. Now, nations will have to work towards introducing the injectable polio vaccine and the eventual phasing out of oral polio vaccines.These countries will introduce a dose of IPV by the end of 2015 as part of their commitment to the global polio endgame plan which aims to ensure a polio-free world by 2018.

Note: Polio- a viral disease that mainly affects children under five years old. The virus is transmitted through contaminated food and water, and multiplies in the intestine. It can then invade the nervous system, causing paralysis in one in every 200 infections.

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WHO: Air pollution top environmental health risk

As per the new estimate of World Health Organization (WHO), Air pollution is the world’s single largest environmental health risk that caused 7 million deaths in 2012, 80% of which were from heart attacks and stroke.

Excerpts of the UN health agency World Health Organization (WHO) report

  • Air pollution ranges from cooking fires to auto fumes.
  • Biggest pollution-related killers: heart disease, stroke, pulmonary disease and lung cancer.
  • Hardest-hit regions: Southeast Asia viz. India and Indonesia, and the Western Pacific, ranging from China and South Korea to Japan and the Philippines.
  • Indoor air pollution: The global death toll is 4.3 million deaths, caused by cooking over coal, wood and biomass stoves.
  • Outdoor pollution: The global death toll is 3.7 million, with sources ranging from coal heating fires to diesel engines.
  • Outdoor air pollution caused by car exhausts, power stations, emissions from agriculture and industry, heating in people’s homes (Group 1 carcinogenic, a cancer causing agent in the same category as tobacco smoke, UV radiation and plutonium).

Note: Its’ first time, WHO has directed a link between air pollution and heart disease, respiratory problems and cancer. The latest figures of 2012 are more than doubles from the previous estimates of deaths caused by air pollution in 2008.

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WHO: Peshawar world’s ‘largest reservoir’ of polio

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared Pakistan’s troubled north-western city of Peshawar as the world’s “largest reservoir” of endemic polio and has called for urgent action to boost vaccination.

As per the latest genomic results of the Regional Reference Laboratory for Polio Virus, 83 out of 91 polio cases in 2013 in the country are genetically linked to the poliovirus circulating actively in Peshawar. Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province and its capital Peshawar and adjoining tribal districts are polio hotspots.

All the polio cases reported from Pakistan are type-1 cases. No report of type-3 polio cases has been reported from Pakistan. Pakistan has been under pressure internationally to eradicate the disease, which usually infects children living in unsanitary conditions. The disease attacks the nerves and can kill or paralyze.

Pakistan, along with Afghanistan and Nigeria, are the only countries in the world where polio remains endemic. Pakistan is the only polio-endemic country in the world where polio cases rose from 2012 to 2013.

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