Expert warns return of polio could tarnish Israel’s public health image, hurt tourism

A top epidemiologist has warned that a re-emergence of polio could cause paralysis among dozens of Israeli children, shatter the country’s global reputation as a leading light in public health and discourage tourism .

Israel for the first time in decades a child suffering from polio, And Two others have tested positive but are asymptomatic, All three are residents of Jerusalem area.

In a country where coronavirus figures were tracked, the numbers seem low, but doctors are warning that the situation is more serious than it appears.

The international health community is on a mission to eradicate polio and cases have decreased by 99 percent since the global initiative was launched in the late 1980s. With recent discoveries, Israel is now one of only 23 countries to have reported cases in the past year.

According to the information, “polio is now alive only in the world’s poorest and marginalized communities, where it afflicts the most vulnerable children.” published Several years ago by the World Health Organization, which leads the initiative.

Israel, widely revered in the health sectors for its unprecedented vaccination campaign against COVID-19, is now a distinctive entry on the WHO’s polio cases map, which includes very poor countries.

Malawi, Yemen, Liberia, Burkina Faso and Guinea are the peers entering with a single case in the past 12 months. If Israel confirms one more clinical case it will rank with Somalia, Ukraine, Mozambique, Pakistan and South Sudan.

Polio vaccination site in Maiduguri, Nigeria in 2016. (AP photo/Sunday Alamba, file)

Epidemiologist Prof. Nadav Davydovich warned that Israel’s inclusion in the list is a real stigma.

“People don’t appreciate that being marked as a country with polio is serious, and that’s a category we really don’t want to be in,” he told The Times of Israel.

“This is a disease that has been marked for eradication, and it appears to be spreading now in Israel, may do great damage to our reputation for advanced health, and may affect further travel People can be cautious about commuting, especially for immunocompromised people.”

He also said Israel could potentially “impede global and regional progress on elimination.”

Every country that has cases of polio, even if there are few, is seen as having a virus alive that must be eradicated. Only Nigeria, where terrorist Boko Haram has hindered vaccination efforts, tripled the number of cases from the previous year, totaling 412.

Aside from Nigeria, poor countries with relatively few cases are dodging polio eradication. The world’s most polio-affected countries include Cameroon, Guinea-Bissau and Benin, each with three cases over the past year. There were 13 in Yemen and Madagascar, 14 in Niger and 15 in Senegal. There were 19 in Afghanistan, 23 in the Democratic Republic of Congo and 27 in Tajikistan.

Pro. Nadav Davydovich. (courtesy)

Davydovich said Israel is not moving towards numbers like Nigeria, but unless polio is tackled swiftly, many cases may well be seen.

While Israel has a high rate of immunization of children, and polio protection among children is more than 90 percent, families that are not vaccinated often live in the same area, attend the same school, and share social circles, Which increases the chances of spreading.

Davydovich and other experts note that distrust of polio vaccines in some parts of the ultra-Orthodox community has led to lower-than-normal vaccination rates in some communities, particularly in the Jerusalem area.

Davydovich said the only effective way to address the problem is to promote vaccination with oral droplets, which contain a weakened form of the live virus. They provide protection to those who have not yet been vaccinated.

People who are vaccinated by injection containing the killed vaccine are protected against disease, but not necessarily against transmission. The drops virtually eliminate their ability to transmit the virus.

“Israel has the tools to take care of this, but needs to act quickly,” Davydovich said. “Unlike COVID, vaccination needs to happen quickly to prove effective and prevent cases from escalating. Israel has invested a lot of energy into building an excellent epidemiological and clinical surveillance system for polio and we must invest in it, and act on the information it gives us. ,

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