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POLIO ERADICATION DRIVE ENTERS FINAL STAGE

 POLIO ERADICATION DRIVE ENTERS FINAL STAGE
 /ADVANCE/ WASHINGTON, Sept. 10 /PRNewswire/ -- The Pan American


Health Organization (PAHO) announced an important achievement in the history of medicine this week, reporting that one year has elapsed since the onset of the last polio case in the Americas.
 This marks the first time in the history of the Western Hemisphere that no cases of polio have been detected for a full year. Polio attacks nearly 250,000 infants worldwide every year, and some 10 million persons worldwide have been affected by infantile paralysis.
 The drive to eradicate polio from the Americas was launched by Dr. Carlyle Guerra de Macedo, director of PAHO, in May 1985. Employing the strategy of national immunization days and using live oral polio vaccine (OPV) and intensive surveillance, the eradication campaign has succeeded in drastically reducing polio cases. From about a thousand cases officially reported in 1986, the number dropped to nine in 1991: eight in Columbia and the last one in Junin, Peru, a year ago. Since then, no cases have been reported.
 This important medical achievement marks a successful milestone on the road to eradication of the second disease ever to be targeted for elimination. Smallpox was the first disease ever eradicated, with the last case in the world reported in August 1977. This was achieved through a joint effort by the countries of the Americas, with the support of PAHO and collaborating agencies including the U.S. Agency for International Development, Rotary International, UNICEF, the Inter-American Development Bank and the Canadian Public Health Association, at an estimated cost of $540 million. In addition to special immunization days, the effort involved intensive use of social communications to inform the public and mobilize communities to support vaccination. PAHO established an impressive surveillance system for Acute Flaccid Paralysis, an indicator of polio, which has over 20,000 health units reporting on a weekly basis, and a network of diagnostic laboratories.
 Through PAHO's Expanded Program on Immunization, the countries have also increased vaccine coverage from less than 25 percent of children under one year of age in the Americas to over 75 percent for all vaccines in the program: DPT (Diphtheria, Pertussis, Tetanus), Polio, Measles and Tuberculosis.
 An International Certification Commission, chaired by Nobel Prize winner Dr. Frederick Robbins, has been established by PAHO to independently verify if transmission of wild poliovirus has been interrupted in the Americas. The work of this commission is expected to last until 1995. In the meantime, immunization coverage must be kept at high levels, surveillance must be maintained, and three years without any polio elapse before the Americas can be certified as polio-free.
 -0- 9/11/92
 /NOTE: PAHO Director Dr. Carlyle Guerra de Macedo will be available for interviews on polio eradication Friday, Sept. 11. For arrangements call the contact below./
 /CONTACT: Dan Epstein of the Pan American Health Organization, 202-861-3459/ CO: Pan American Health Organization ST: District of Columbia IN: HEA SU:


IH -- DC008 -- 7486 09/09/92 12:02 EDT
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Date:Sep 9, 1992
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