Bulgaria Polio Case

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Nando Times

Polio case diagnosed in Europe

The Associated Press

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (May 17, 2001 12:05 p.m. EDT) - The first case of polio to appear in Europe since 1998 has been diagnosed in an unvaccinated 13-month-old baby in Bulgaria, the World Health Organization said Thursday.

Bulgarian health authorities determined that the baby, a Gypsy in the Black Sea city of Burgas, had the virus in April. Other children in the community of Gypsies, also known as Roma, were immediately vaccinated. The condition of the 13-month-old was not disclosed.

"Good surveillance by local authorities has allowed for rapid response to this case," said a WHO official, Dr. Steven Wassilak.

Laboratories in Paris, Rome and Atlanta studied the virus and traced it to northern India, according to a statement from WHO's European region headquarters in the Danish capital.

"The fact that the virus was imported from India shows how just how important worldwide vaccination campaigns are," WHO spokesman George Oblapenko said. "Without constant vigilance, Europe's polio-free status and the global eradication efforts would both be in danger."

The polio virus was last identified in Europe in November 1998, when it was found in a Turkish province along the Iranian border.

Polio has been wiped out in 155 nations, including all of North and South America, China and Australia. But even children in polio-free countries must be vaccinated because infected travelers can easily spread the disease.

-- Rachel Gibson (rgibson@hotmail.com), May 18, 2001

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