Citing “extraordinary” circumstances, the World Health Organization (WHO) today declared the international spread of wild poliovirus a public health emergency of international concern. It is just the second time that WHO has declared an emergency, saying the recent export of polio from three nations to adjoining areas could threaten global efforts to eradicate the disease.
Under the new recommendations, which are not legally binding but carry tremendous weight, the three countries deemed to pose the greatest risk of further spread—Pakistan, Cameroon, and Syria—must now ensure that all residents and long-term visitors have proof of recent polio vaccination before leaving the country. WHO is also encouraging the seven other nations known to have polio infections to implement similar measures.
This is just the second time that such an emergency has been declared under the International Health Regulations adopted in 2005; the first was during the H1N1 swine flu pandemic in April 2009.